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Tajikistan: Association of Young Lawyers 'Amparo' closed down
On 24 October 2012, the Association of Young Lawyers (Amparo) was closed down by a decision of the Khujand City Court following the proceedings initiated by the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Justice of Sughd Province.
Amparo is one of the leading human rights organisations in Tajikistan, composed of more than 40 young human rights lawyers providing free legal assistance to victims of discrimination. Amparo is also part of the Coalition against Torture, created by several Tajik civil society organisations.
The civil case against Amparo was opened on 6 August 2012 by the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Justice of Sughd Province after they carried out an audit of Amparo on 28 June 2012. The audit lasted one day, and on 29 June a legal suit was filed against Amparo on the basis that the association violated its own charter as well as the Law on Public Associations and should therefore be dissolved.
After two hearings, on 23 and on 24 October 2012, the Khujand City Court ordered the closure of the organisation. This decision was motivated by the fact that Amparo had not registered its new address with the Department of Justice; that it worked in a number of regions without having applied to open regional branches; that it unlawfully operated a website; and that it conducted trainings on the rights of army conscripts without the relevant licence. Amparo responded that the law only requires the registration of the 'location of the board of the organisation', which they have always registered in accordance with provisions of Article 25 of the Law on Public Associations. '
Amparo does not operate outside of Sughd Province, as all the programs outside the province are carried out by partner organisations. Tajik legislation does not prevent NGOs from disseminating information on their activities; as to the creation of the website, there is no such word as 'website' to be found anywhere in the Law on Public Associations. According to the Law, the organisation of trainings does not require a particular licence, and organising trainings is defined as one of Amparo's activities in the organisation's statutes. Nevertheless, the Court agreed with the prosecution's arguments and ordered the human rights organisation to be closed down. Amparo intends to appeal this decision.
Front Line Defenders believes that the court's decision to order the closure of Amparo is an inappropriate sanction that is at odds with the formal character of the offences allegedly committed by Amparo. Front Line Defenders believes the ruling is a direct consequence of the legitimate human rights work carried out by Amparo and that it constitutes a violation of the freedom of association in Tajikistan.