The fall of Berlin wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 have become events which required the OSCE member-states to re-consider the necessary steps on developing new mechanisms to maintain security in the OSCE region. Twenty years ago, the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security entered into force, which was adapted in 1994 in the OSCE Budapest Summit.

Tajikistan, as well as some other newly independent states, has faced brutal, bloody conflicts in the beginning of the 1990s. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, infrastructure has been destroyed. One of the goals of drafting the Code of Conduct was to prevent such conflicts in the future, integrating and maintaining democratic control over the armed forces, to avoid a grasp for control by a political group or party as it was experienced during the Soviet era, where armed forces were used as means of promoting and protecting a political ideology.

The Code of Conduct is the set of principles and guidance regulating armed forces and security sector bodies, both in intrastate relations and in interstate relations. The Code of Conduct has 42 paragraphs, 10 untitled sections. Sections I-VI regulate interstate relations in the politico-military dimension. Principles and norms of these sections are referenced and cited in other OSCE documents, such as the OSCE Helsinki and Paris Documents.

Sections VII and VIII stipulate the following fundamental provisions such as a primacy of democratic political control over security and defense forces, budgetary parliamentary overview, protection of conscripts’ and military personnel rights and freedoms, promotion of education on international humanitarian law and its effective implementation by security forces, political neutrality of forces, principles and rules of internal use of forces and other legal commitments.

Nowadays, the Code of Conduct is considered as not only the framework of politico-military dimension, but also in human dimension of OSCE. OSCE state-members agreed that maintaining security was impossible without respect for human rights and functioning democratic institutions. The Code of Conduct contains important provisions on armed forces personnel rights. Particularly, paragraphs 27 and 28 of the Code of Conduct proclaim a commitment to ensure the guarantee of human rights during call-up and recruitment as well as considerations to introduce exemptions from or alternatives to military service.

The Code obliges states to adopt legislative and practical steps to prevent armed forces being utilized to limit the peaceful and lawful exercise of human and civil rights by persons as individuals or as representatives of groups, nor to deprive them of their national, religious, cultural, linguistic or ethnic identity. It is important to note that the Code determines a commitment to balance the control over security and defense forces to avoid a monopolization of aforementioned forces for the interest of certain political groups or individuals. The Code allows for parliamentary control over forces. The only body entitled to adopt a security and defense budget is to be Parliament. This competence does not mean a simple voting procedure of pushing buttons “yes, no or abstain”. Parliament should act in an effective way, starting at the budget preparation stage through the auditing of the implementation of budgetary law by requiring appropriate information about budget allocations from the executive body in question. Constitutional or legal provisions alone are not sufficient indicators of the rule of law and democracy. It is vital to have parliamentary oversight over armed forces in order to provide transparency and accountability for the population.

In spite of the revolutionary character of the Code of Conduct and its adoption 20 years ago, the Code was not effectively implemented in Tajikistan. The Code of Conduct remains the document of intra-state relations in Vienna, which unfortunately is limited by providing answers to the questionnaire to the Forum for Security Cooperation. Tajikistan submits its report on an annual basis every in April. Since 2008, answers are available online ( The answers provided by Tajikistan over the past 5 years have remained identical. They contain either extracts from legislation or answers which do not pertain to the questions at hand. For example, to the question “How is the public informed about the provisions of the Code of Conduct?”, Tajikistan has replied “Information is submitted annually. Submission of answers is proceeding through diplomatic channels in Vienna. The implementation of the Code is assigned to the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Tajikistan.” This does not illuminate how access to the Code is provided or how the public is informed about the Code.

Court trials on inhuman treatment in the Tajik Army are evidence of the continued existence of “dedovshina” (hazing), a weak system of oversight, problems with transparency and openness of the defense institutions. Arbitrary and unlawful detentions of young people during call-up have become an acceptable method of manning armed forces. Security and defense institutions have no right to violate those values and principles for which they have been established, they should not be isolated from the society and become an instrument of intimidation. This kind of politics may be as a lack of trust, violation of human rights and freedoms, theft of state property and corruption, misuse of armed forces, violation of international obligations and unlawful and ineffective use of forces.

The Code of Conduct has to be used as fundamental document and guideline for developing reform programs of the security and defense forces in Tajikistan. In order to achieve it, it is necessary to consolidate governmental, OSCE, civil society and academia efforts as well as strongly including active citizens.

Written by: Farangis Zikriyaeva, Human Rights Matter, Program Director, Германия

Khursheda Rahimova , Office for Civil Freedoms, Tajikistan

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