Tajikistan is an authoritarian state dominated politically since 1992 by President Emomali Rahmon and his supporters. The constitution provides for a multiparty political system, but the government has historically obstructed political pluralism. Constitutional amendments approved in a 2016 national referendum outlawed religious-affiliated political parties and abolished presidential term limits for the “leader of the nation,” a title that has only been held by the incumbent, allowing President Rahmon to further solidify his rule. Rustam Emomali, the 34-year-old mayor of the capital, Dushanbe, and eldest son of President Rahmon, became speaker of the Majlisi Milli, the upper house of parliament, in April 2020, placing him next in line for succession. March 2020 parliamentary elections and the October 2020 presidential election were neither free nor fair.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Drug Control Agency, Agency on State Financial Control and the Fight against Corruption (Anticorruption Agency), State Committee for National Security, State Tax Committee, and Customs Service share civilian law enforcement responsibilities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is primarily responsible for public order and manages the police. The Drug Control Agency, Anticorruption Agency, and State Tax Committee have mandates to investigate specific crimes and report to the president. The State Committee for National Security is responsible for intelligence gathering, controls the Border Service, and investigates cases linked to alleged extremist political or religious activity, trafficking in persons, and politically sensitive cases. All law enforcement agencies and the Customs Service report directly to the president. Agency responsibilities overlap significantly, and law enforcement organizations defer to the State Committee for National Security. Civilian authorities only partially maintained control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearances on behalf of the government; torture and abuse of detainees by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country, including kidnappings or violence; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; particularly severe restrictions of religious freedom; significant restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on and harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and forced labor.
There were very few prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses or for corruption. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government mostly acted with impunity.