Stop the Disgraceful Anti-Tajik Campaign!

Source: (info), 16/11/11

· Racism and xenophobia

Statement by the Human Rights Council of Russia

Judicial authorities in the Republic of Tajikistan have convicted two Russian pilots – one a citizen of the Russian Federation, the other a citizen of Estonia. Six months after the start of the trial, when the case had become public knowledge and the pilots had been sentenced to unusually severe punishments of eight and a half years in prison, the President of Russia announced the possibility of an ‘asymmetrical response’.

It should be pointed out that for a long time before this Russian diplomats had ignored the appeals of the pilots and their relatives and took action only when the incident became widely known. This is not surprising. We know many instances when the Russian authorities completely ignore the sufferings of many of our compatriots, including pilots and sailors who have spent months or even years in prison, or under effective house arrest, in various countries.

We are ready to agree that the conviction of the pilots is absurd, unjust and politically motivated.

We fully recognize the right of the state to act in a situation of the unlawful persecution of its citizens. No one would think of objecting if the appropriate authorities in our country published a list of officials complicit in the prosecution of the pilots and banned them from entering the Russian Federation, and froze their accounts in Russian banks.

However, instead of this approach, the most shameful and unlawful path has been chosen. Citizens of Tajikistan have been rounded up. They have been seized outside mosques, at markets and on building sites. Those conducting the round-ups have been volunteers from youth organizations, with no authority to maintain public order. Hundreds of those detained, in distinction to the usual practice, have been deported in a rushed manner by plane to their country. At the same time, the head of the Federal Migration Agency Konstantin Romodanovsky, said that Tajiks, in terms of the percentage of those engaged in crime, are the most frequent offenders, and the chief public health officer Gennady Onishchenko said that people coming from Tajikistan represent a risk in terms of the spread of epidemics. We consider statements such as these to be attempts to portray Tajik migrants as enemies and thereby justify their expulsion.

Over the last five years we have been witness now on two occasions how the Russian authorities use the mechanism of deportation as a means to put pressure on regimes of which they do not approve. In October 2006 people from Georgia became victims of these attacks. Now it is the turn of the Tajiks. In practice what we have seen is that human individuals have been considered to be the equivalent of imported wines and mineral water.

We believe this is a disgrace! The practice of collective punishment, using people of a given ethnic origin as a target for repressions, or as hostages of inter-governmental relations, is repulsive and is in violation of international law.

Protocol No. 4 (Article 4) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states: “Collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited.”

The UN Human Rights Commission has established that the mass expulsion of aliens is in practice any measure taken by the responsible authorities for the purpose of forcing a group of aliens as such to leave the country… The principle of banning mass expulsions applies to foreign citizens and to stateless persons on the territory of the state, whether they are there unlawfully or lawfully.

The expulsion of aliens and ethnic minorities as a collective punishment was used by Hitler and by a number of dictators and totalitarian regimes in the post-war period. It is a matter of deep regret that our country now finds itself in this same list.

We demand an immediate halt to the rounding up of Tajiks and to the selective application of migration law based on ethnic origin!

We demand that the head of the Federal Consumer Rights Protection Agency, Gennady Onishchenko, be dismissed because his statements are insulting to Tajiks and serve to create an atmosphere of hysteria around members of this ethnic group.

We ask the Council of Europe and the UN Human Rights Council to immediately intervene and demand that the Russian authorities cease the expulsions on grounds of ethnicity of Tajiks.

Members of the Human Rights Council of Russia
Ludmila Alekseeva, chair, Moscow Helsinki Group
Valery Borshchev, member, Moscow Helsinki Group
Yury Vdovin, deputy chair of Citizens’ Watch
Svetlana Gannushkina, Civic Assistance, member of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre
Sergei Kovalev, Commission for the Study of the Heritage of Andrei Sakharov
Oleg Orlov, Chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre
Lev Ponomarev, executive director, Movement For Human Rights
Liliya Shibanova, GOLOS Association for the Protection of Voters’ Rights"
Liubov Volkova, president, Social Partnership Foundation
Evgeny Ikhlov, head of the analytical department, Movement For Human Rights