How Tajikistan blocked term extensions for key OSCE officials

2 years ago Web Desk 0

Two leading officials for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are suddenly out of office after an extension of their mandates was rejected by Tajikistan.


The terms of Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir as the head of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and for Harlem Desir as the OSCE representative on freedom of the media expired on July 19.


Radio Liberty says both had been nominated for a second three-year term, but in both cases, the OSCE delegation from Tajikistan helped to block their reappointments. Both had also been known have annoyed the Tajik government.


The offices of ODIHR and the representative for media freedom are responsible for monitoring compliance of OSCE commitments by all 57 member countries — and Tajikistan is far from the only country to receive criticism.


Tajikistan was reportedly joined by Turkey in blocking Gisladottir’s extension, with both countries issuing diplomatic notes that said ODIHR had allowed “registration of representatives of criminal groups and people who committed terrorist acts” to attend the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM).


The Turkish delegation to 2017 HDIM walked out due to the presence of representatives from the New York-based Journalists and Writers Foundation that Turkish authorities claim is a terrorist organization with links to the Fethullah Gulen movement, and boycotted the annual event in 2018 for the same reason.


Tajikistan’s delegation to the 2016 HDIM walked out when representatives from the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) attended and Tajik officials refused to participate in the 2017 conference.


The Tajik government accuses the IRPT of trying to stage a coup in September 2015, though there is no credible evidence to back this claim.


Azerbaijan reportedly objected to renewing Desir’s mandate as the OSCE’s freedom of the media representative because of what Baku called Desir’s “excessive criticism about the situation with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.”


Tajikistan’s reason was reportedly presumably similar, according to Radio Liberty. Desir had recently criticized the Tajik authorities on Twitter for actions against independent media organizations, most recently for blocking the independent news site.


And just a few weeks earlier, Desir condemned a physical attack on independent Asia-Plus journalist Abdullo Ghurbati and called on the authorities to find and punish the attackers.


A group of 28 press-freedom, media-development, and journalism-support organizations released a statement about Azerbaijan and Tajikistan’s refusal to prolong Desir’s mandate, saying, “We respect the need for a consensus vote of all member states of the OSCE on the mandate renewal,” but “we understand the move by Azerbaijan and Tajikistan is an attempt to weaken the essential watchdog function of the mandate.”


The statement pointed out that “As the COVID-19 pandemic showed, ensuring media freedom is more important now than ever.”


Source: Asia Plus