Since gaining independence in 1991, Tajikistan has made substantial progress in bringing its national legislation into conformance with international standards and to strengthening national human rights protection mechanisms.
Since adopting the State Program on Judicial-Legal Reform in June 2007, the Government of Tajikistan has taken important steps towards strengthening the rule of law and role of the judiciary in guaranteeing the rights of individuals and citizens. In particular, the Program on Judicial-Legal Reform provides for judicial sanctioning of arrest, balancing of powers between parties in the court process, as well as the creation of new bodies, such as court collegia on administrative and family law cases. As part of the reform program, a new Code of Criminal Procedure was approved in late 2009. In January 2011, President Emomali Rahmon approved a new State Program on Judicial-Legal Reform for the years 2011-2013. Through dialogue and education on changes to legislation and procedure, the OSCE facilitates implementation of reforms outlined in the state programs.
A law establishing the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman was signed by the President in March 2008, and the Ombudsman, Zarif Alizoda, was appointed in May 2009. The functions of the Human Rights Ombudsman institution include monitoring human rights in the national context, investigating and documenting rights violations, handling individual complaints, as well as providing advisory services including human rights education in school curricula. Over the course of 2010, the Office worked closely with the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman to strengthen administrative management and work processes as the institution develops. With extra-budgetary support from Germany, the Office supported a collaborative process of strategic planning that resulted in the production of a strategic plan for Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman for 2011-2015.
The Office has facilitated peer-to-peer exchange of experience with other National Human Rights Institutions in the region and beyond. In fall 2009, in co-operation with the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Office brought Alizoda together with his counterpart in Poland, the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection. In August 2010, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice of Finland and former Ombudsman for National Minorities, Mikko Puumalainen, spent three weeks advising the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman on administration, management and development of national human rights institutions. In September 2010, the Office supported the participation of Alizoda in a conference in Tashkent in which representatives of National Human Rights Institutions from Sweden, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan took part. The Office will continue its support to the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman in 2011, paying particular attention to improving information management systems and developing a communications strategy.
In 2010, the OSCE/ODIHR Central Asia Expert Forum on Criminal Justice was held in Dushanbe.
Since 2000, the Office has supported reform of the penal system and improvement of detention conditions. The Office has consistently advocated for access by independent observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, to places of detention and has expressed its readiness to support the Government of Tajikistan in review of the State Strategy for Penal Reform 2004-08. In December 2010, the Office, in partnership with Penal Reform International, supported a workshop on international standards of treatment for 25 officials the Department of Corrections, law enforcement bodies, Office of the General Prosecutor, and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. In a parallel December 2010 event for civil society and international actors, a member of the UK House of Lords and renowned expert in penal reform consulted on international experience in penal reform and possible ways forward in Tajikistan.