On the 9th June, 2015, the Office for Civil Freedoms together with the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Tajikistan and Ombudsman with the OSCE’s financial support have conducted a half-day conference on Results of Human Rights Observations in Military Bases, Human Rights of the Conscripts and Armed Forces Personnel in Tajikistan.
It was the first conference where representatives of the Ministry of Defense, military prosecutor office and military court took part in the conference together with representatives of civil society organizations and human rights activists.
Several key issues have been discussed during the conference. Among them were: hazing in the military bases and possible ways of its elimination, prosecutor supervision over crimes and omissions occurring in the military bases, impunity of officers, living conditions in barracks, medical services as well as gaps in the new draft of the Law on Military Duty and Military Service.
Representative of the military prosecutor office noted that military prosecutor offices visited of military bases twice per month to observe the situation with armed forces personnel and assess cases of misconduct. Representative of the ministry of defense of Tajikistan pointed out that military bases are equipped with cameras, which allow observing situations in barracks. Civil society representatives agreed on that cameras indeed might be effective means to fight the hazing, but they should not be the only means to eliminate inhumane treatment in military bases.
Military court judge in his presentation provided a statistical overview of criminal cases. He briefly described criminal cases related to victims of inhumane treatment in military bases. He confirmed that military courts provided the mass media with up-to-date information and guaranteed the impartiality of military judges and equality of parties.
After the presentation, the judge has been asked about a jurisdiction of military courts over decisions of conscripts and conscripts commissions. The question was whether military courts have a jurisdiction over conscripts, who are not recognized as military personnel under the Tajik legislation. Representatives of military court and prosecutor office explained that conscription is a military issue; therefore military courts have the jurisdiction over complaints coming from conscripts. The UN Human Rights Committee reiterated its previous concern that military courts still enjoy jurisdiction to examine criminal cases in which military personnel and civilians are jointly accused (art. 14) and recommended Tajikistan, without further delay, to prohibit military courts from exercising jurisdiction over civilians.
At the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Justice drafted a new Law on Military Duties and Military Service. The present law “On General Military Duties and Military Service” has been adopted in 2000. Babajanov, director of the Committee of Solders’ Parents of the Sughd Region presented an analysis of the draft law prepared by a number of human rights organization in Tajikistan, including Human Rights Matter. He highlighted the most prominent gaps and some positive provisions of the draft law. He recommended to discuss it with civil society organizations and activists in order to bring it in compliance with international standards, to avoid vague provisions, which can be misinterpreted, and to strengthen civilian democratic oversight over all defense processes and organs stipulated in the draft law.
By the end of the conference, participants developed the following recommendations:
- To decrease a period of military service from two years to one year. It will help to prevent inhumane treatment in military bases.
- To introduce new social and other types of benefits for armed forces personnel, such as simplification of procedure to continue education.
- To establish and introduce a monitoring mechanisms to be used by all responsible institutions on security and defense.
- To provide necessary conditions for armed forces personnel to communicate with family members while they are serving in military bases.
- To strengthen democratic civilian control over armed forces.
- To enhance transparency and accountability of Ministry of Defense and to strengthen collaboration with other stakeholders.
- To end impunity of military officers in regards of inhumane treatment occurring in military bases where they are responsible to prevent such misconducts.
- To strengthen human rights education of armed forces personnel.
- To organize visits of parliamentarians of military bases.