The so-called “Opinions adopted by the Working group on arbitrary detention at its 92nd session on November 15-19, 2021 concerning the case of Gaffor Rakhmonovich Mirzoev”, better known to the residents of Tajikistan as Gafur-gray, caused a mixed reaction in Tajikistan.
The UN Working group on arbitrary detention called on the government of Tajikistan to release former Tajik general Gaffor Mirzoev. “During the initial trial, the court sentenced Mr. Mirzoev to an unacceptable punishment under national and international law, relying on a rule of law not yet in force at the time of his arrest, and this is clearly contrary to the basic and universal principles of law and, directly leads to Mr. Mirzoev being arbitrarily detained.”
The resolution of the UN Working group on arbitrary detention also notes that “Mirzoev strongly denied the charges against him as politically motivated”, and international experts argue in defense of these claims that “Mr. Mirzoev’s arrest could have been provoked by his alleged decision to support mayor of Dushanbe and chairman of the upper house of Parliament in the presidential campaign for the post of head of Tajikistan. Secondly, the arrest of Mr. Mirzoev could be related to fears that he was going to challenge the president by running for president during the presidential campaign. Thirdly, the President allegedly feared that Mr. Mirzoev and others were plotting a coup d’état against him.” “But the evidence for such a serious allegation has never been made public,” international lawyers said.
Gaffor Mirzoev was one of the leaders of the Popular Front of Tajikistan, who during the civil war in Tajikistan led the presidential guard and was considered one of the most influential officials in the government of Rahmon. However, in January 2004, he was removed from the post of commander and appointed to the post of head of the Drug Control Agency (DCA) under the President of Tajikistan. According to a source in the executive office of the President of Tajikistan, who, on condition of anonymity, spoke about the circumstances of the transfer of Gaffor Mirzoev from the presidential guard to the DCA. At first, Mirzoev calmly accepted the message of his dismissal from the post of commander of the presidential guard, but the next day, under pressure from his subordinates, he went to the presidential palace, and in the presence of employees of the executive apparatus, he began to express his claims to the President of the country, using obscenities. “The head of the presidential apparatus managed to calm down Mirzoev, but the entire personnel of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies in the country was transferred to the highest degree of combat readiness. Mirzoev was offered several minor positions in the government, and he chose the position of director of the DCA,” the source said.
From January to July, on the instructions of the President, operational-search measures were carried out against Mirzoev, and after the evidence was collected, he was detained on August 6, 2004.
In 2006, Mirzoev was sentenced to life imprisonment for violating 28 articles of the Criminal Code, including murder, hostage-taking, extortion, possession of weapons and explosives. On July 7, 2007, after an appeal against the verdict by the convict, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan upheld the court’s verdict.
The court was closed, and the Working group considers this a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in international legal acts ratified by the Republic of Tajikistan.
The main argument of the Working group is the fact that the term to which Mirzoev was sentenced didn’t comply with the current legislation of the country at that time. So, at the time of Mirzoev’s arrest, a moratorium on the death penalty was announced, but the law on replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment was adopted in 2005, after Mirzoev’s arrest. That is, Mirzoev should have expected a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and the court, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, should have sentenced him to 15 years in prison. So, he should have been released on August 6, 2019.
According to lawyer Scott Martin, hired by the family of Mirzoev, “if the court sentenced him to even 25 years in prison, then the date of his release would be 2029.” “The conclusion of the assessments and opinions concerning the case of Mirzoev is that he should be released immediately, receive compensation, and all the circumstances of his case should be investigated in connection with his arbitrary detention,” says Martin.
However, there are many people in Tajikistan who negatively perceived the news about the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council. “He bombed our houses, his soldiers shot defenseless people, and now he has become a victim… Is that fair?” asks a resident of the village of Sayed in Sangvor district. A former officer of the special purpose police unit, Mr. D., agrees with him. He said that once during a military operation, Mirzoev forced them to cross a minefield at gunpoint. “Two of ours were blown up then, and one of them was forever disabled.”
However, according to human rights activists, even if Gafur-gray is an odious person who terrified many people during the civil war, the rule of law should be the main thing – a concept that isn’t yet in use in Tajikistan.
Source: ACCA Media