On April 22, 2017, military authorities arrested 18-year-old Daniil Islamov, a conscientious objector, because he refused military service. He was detained in a military training camp in Tajikistan until October 13, 2017, when a military court in Dushanbe convicted and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment. He was taken to a temporary detention facility in the city of Kurgan-tyube, where he remains to this day.

In 2014, Mr. Islamov began an in-depth study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and was impressed with the Bible’s message of peace. When he was called to report to the Military Enlistment Office of the Firdavsi District of Dushanbe on April 22, 2017, he explained to officials his conscientious objection to military service based on his Bible-trained conscience and requested that he be allowed to perform alternative civilian service. Military officials pressured him to join the army voluntarily and serve under the Ministry of Emergency Situations, where he would not use weapons. Mr. Islamov firmly refused all forms of military service. On the same day, the officials sent him to a military training camp in the Vakhsh Region, more than 70 miles from Dushanbe.

Punished for Government’s Failure to Implement Alternative Civilian Service

After criminal charges were first initiated against Mr. Islamov in early June, his lawyer filed a motion to terminate the criminal case because there was no evidence of a crime. Tajikistan’s law on military service permits a person to substitute alternative civilian service for compulsory military service, and Mr. Islamov requested this provision. His lawyer also presented the norms of international law that entitle a person to exemption from compulsory military service if it cannot be reconciled with the individual’s religion or beliefs.

The Military Prosecutor’s Office (MPO) responded to Mr. Islamov’s lawyer, stating that alternative civilian service is not available in Tajikistan. * MPO senior investigator R. M. Saydaliyev rejected the motion to terminate the criminal case, ruling that Mr. Islamov is subject to military law and that there are no grounds for exemption. On July 31, 2017, the same senior investigator declared “soldier Islamov” guilty of refusal to perform military service. The October 13, 2017, decision of a military court confirmed that declaration by convicting and sentencing Mr. Islamov to six months in a general regime colony.

Mr. Islamov’s lawyer appealed the conviction, stating: “Clearly, Mr. Islamov is not a soldier, and he should not be subject to military jurisdiction. Senior investigator Saydaliyev himself noted that Mr. Islamov has not taken the military oath, refuses to wear a military uniform, expresses his conscientious objection to military service, and asks to serve his fellow citizens in alternative civilian service. This is the manifestation of conscientious objection, not insubordination. He is not ‘soldier Islamov’ but a peace-loving Christian willing to serve his fellow citizens in alternative civilian service.”

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan did not rule on the merits of the case, but sent his case back to the first instance court for “mistakes in the case”—apparently, a mistake made in that court’s chancellery. While his attorney works to restore the case for the Supreme Court’s consideration, Mr. Islamov remains in prison.

UN Human Rights Committee Calls on Tajikistan to Recognize the Right to Conscientious Objection

In a report dated July 18, 2005, the UN Human Rights Committee (Committee) called on the government of Tajikistan to “take all necessary measures to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted from military service.” * The Committee reiterated its decision in a 2013 report, again urging the government to take steps to ensure that the law allows individuals to exercise the right of conscientious objection to military service. * The government has yet to apply the Committee’s directives.

Efforts to Assist Mr. Islamov

While awaiting a trial on the criminal charges for refusing military service, Mr. Islamov’s lawyer submitted a complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). On October 5, 2017, the WGAD released its Opinion No. 43/2017, which found that Tajikistan authorities have arbitrarily detained Mr. Islamov and that they should immediately release and compensate him.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are grateful that most governments with compulsory military service have a program of alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors. They hope that Tajikistan will soon comply with its own law and with its international treaty obligations to implement alternative civilian service for its citizens who choose to exercise the right to conscientious objection.

Time Line

  1. October 13, 2017

    Military Court convicts and sentences Mr. Islamov to six months in a general regime colony.

  2. October 5, 2017

    The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention releases its decision that Mr. Islamov has been arbitrarily detained and should be immediately released.

  3. July 31, 2017

    The senior investigator of the Military Prosecutor’s Office charges Mr. Islamov with the crime of refusal to perform military service.

  4. April 22, 2017

    In response to a call-up, Daniil Islamov appears before the Military Enlistment Office and requests alternative civilian service but is sent to a military training camp and detained.

^ par. 6 The government of Tajikistan has failed to implement an alternative civilian service program although the military service law provides for this right.

^ par. 10 UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations: Tajikistan, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/84/TJK, (July 18, 2005).

^ par. 10 UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations: Tajikistan, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/TJK/CO/2, (August 22, 2013).