Ахбори Анҷуман

An Open Letter to the President of FATF Mr. Santiago Otamendi

NBT as an issuer of unreliable documents

Dear Mr. President, we the representatives of the civil society of Tajikistan, are forced to address the issue of the violation of rights and democratic freedoms of our fellow citizens which occurred as a consequence of the fact that the NBT published a list of people who the Tajik authorities claim to be associated with terrorists.

The National Bank of Tajikistan published a list of people and organizations that allegedly “are connected” with terrorism on its website. The number of people this year reached 1372. The previous one in March 2017 mentioned 1200 Tajik citizens. This list is updated every year.

Such lists are compiled by the national banks of countries in accordance with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), an international organization engaged in the development and implementation of international standards in the field of combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Implementation of the recommendations of the FATF, in accordance with the Resolution of the UN Security Council, is mandatory for all UN member states. Tajikistan is a member of the Eurasian Group. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization that develops world standards in the field of combating money laundering and terrorist financing (AML / CFT), and provides assessments of the compliance of national AML / CFT systems with these standards.

However, is the NBT’s list consistent with the FATF standards, spirit and objectives?
It is enough to look at the list once to find along with supposed or alleged terrorists and extremists not only the names of political opponents of the power in Tajikistan, but also people who do not exist.

This list labels as “terrorists” people who call upon the government of Tajikistan for reforms, free and transparent elections, and for peaceful as well as legal change of power. Thus, this list includes a great number and variety of citizens of Tajikistan who reside both in and outside the country. This list includes political and civil activists, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, bloggers and teachers.

The so-called “terrorist activities” of the majority of people mentioned in the list are not proved and or sustained. According to Part 1 of Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until his/her guilt is established lawfully in a public trial in which he/she is provided with all possibilities for protection. The authorities of Tajikistan, contrary to the generally recognized international norms, without conducting due trials, equated their political opponents to persons who have links to terrorism. The major proof that exposes the unreliability of the NBT’s issuing and distributing of a «terrorist list» is the inclusion in this list of non-existent people and fake accounts from social networks. Are terrorists going to open accounts, buy plane tickets and launder money for an advertised fake nickname on a social network? By doing so the NBT exposes itself as unreliable. It seems that the NBT is not aware of the seriousness and responsibility of the case, which they are engaged in.

The National Bank of Tajikistan thus acts as an issuer of unreliable documents, since the dubious list is not backed up and is compiled without following the laws of Tajikistan and without obeying the provisions and recommendations of the FATF. It seems that the list published by the NBT is dictated not by solidarity in the fight against real terrorism and the laundering of dirty and criminal capital, but purely by domestic political conjuncture and the use of the international institutions for their own purposes — persecution and suppression of a different approach to matters or a different way of thinking. Interpol has recently been forced to reconsider its attitude to the weight of inquiries from Dushanbe.

We consider it necessary to inform the FATF and its President Santiago Otamendi that Tajikistan is a democratic country only on paper and unconfirmed by real actions. According to the USCIRF report in April 2017, the US Commission on Religious Freedom in the World, Tajikistan «is a country of particular concern» in the matter of ensuring freedom of speech and of religion. According to the research of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2017, which is engaged in assessing the level of democracy in the world, among the 165 countries, Tajikistan ranks 159 and its Democracy Index is 1.93 out of 10. The judiciary in Tajikistan is not independent, charges are often fabricated, and on charges of extremism and terrorism, most cases are politically motivated and often have no legal basis. The opposition parties and movements are recognized as extremist and terrorist, lawyers, civil activists, journalists, doctors and teachers are equated with terrorists. The Constitution of the country is violated, members of the opposition political parties, civil activists and members of their families are threatened and persecuted.

At the request of Tajikistan, the IRPT Chairman Muhiddin Kabiri was included in the Red List of Interpol, but after reviewing his case, the international police removed his name from this list. Interpol did not find it reasonable to accuse other members of this party of extremism and terrorism as well and civil activists, such as Mirzorakhim Kuzov, Kamariddini Afzali, Sobir Valiev, Shabnam Khudoydodova, Sulaimon Davlatov, Sharofiddin Gadoev, Mehrubon Sattorov. But despite this, the above-mentioned citizens are included in the list of the NBT. Some of those included in the list of the NBT received international protection in Europe.

The Tajik authorities are trying to abuse their opportunities to use the resources of these and other international institutions to achieve goals that are not stipulated by the charter of these organizations. The use of financial measures of pressure on political opponents is a violation of the international law, in particular, it is contradictory to the provisions of articles 11, 12, and 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By creating such precedents, the Tajik authorities inflict irreparable damage on the image of Tajikistan. A loss of trust at the international level can damage the real fight against real extremists and terrorists and distract from the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

According to the Report of the Republic of Tajikistan on the National Assessment of the Risk of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, the highest level of threats come from funds related to corruption and bribery, tax crimes, crimes related to drug trafficking, and fraud. The funds associated with corruption and bribery are assessed as very large and potentially can be accessed for the ML / FT process. Therefore, we urge the FATF to require the Tajik authorities to establish clear criteria and justification for including citizens to the list of persons allegedly involved in terrorist activities. We do not ask the NBT to include in this list the names of those who are really engaged in laundering of criminal income. These names are known not only to officials in the NBT, but also to citizens. However, there were no fair and open courts in this regard either.

P.S. The arrest of the two Tajik citizens and political migrants Suhrob Zafar (Tabarov) and Nasim Shapirov in Istanbul on the 19th of march, as request by Tajik authorities, confirms our fears. The constitutional court of Turkey suspended the extradition procedure connected with the fact that in their homeland the two activists could face torture and further mistreatment. The lawyers of the arrested, have stated that the basis for the request of the arrest was the aforementioned NBT list. Earlier, Interpol has stricken Suhob Tabarov’s name from their wanted individuals list, due to insufficient evidence of criminality.

The Forum of tajik freethinkers

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