UPDATE: Researching Laws of the Republic of Tajikistan Using Web Based Resources

By Bakhtiyor Abdulhamidov

Bakhtiyor Abdulhamidov is an in-house counsel at a multilateral development bank headquartered in London, UK. Before that, he worked as a partner of a leading commercial law firm in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which he co-founded in 2003. Prior to practicing law, he spent several years managing a legal reform project in Tajikistan funded by a bilateral donor agency. He studied law at the Tajik National University, Central European University, and Harvard Law School.

Published July/August 2023

(Previously updated by Oleg Stalbovskiy & Maria Stalbovskaya in November 2009, and by Bakhtiyor Abdulhamidov in January/February 2015)

See the Archive Version!

Note: Most of the resources referred to in this article are in Tajik and/or Russian. English translations of laws and other legal acts, which are available on select websites, in absolute majority of cases are outdated and unofficial.

1. Introduction

1.1. Geography

The Republic of Tajikistan is the smallest country in Central Asia, with the total territory covering 143,000 square kilometers. Tajikistan borders Kyrgyzstan in the north, Uzbekistan in the north and west, Afghanistan in the south and China in the east. 93% of its territory consists of mountains, with almost half of it located at an elevation above 3,000 meters. The main mountain systems are the Pamir-Alai Mountain system and Tien Shan Range. Tajikistan is rich in natural resources, including hydro-resources, in which it is ranked eighth or ninth in the world, and metals, including silver, gold, lead, zinc, copper, antimony, coal and anthracite, as well as precious and semi-precious stones. The capital of Tajikistan is the city of Dushanbe.

1.2. Language and Demographics

The official (state) language is Tajik, which belongs to the Indo-Iranian group and is considered a dialect of the Persian language — closely related to Farsi (spoken in Iran) and Dari (spoken in Afghanistan). From the year of adoption of the Constitution of Tajikistan in 1994, the Russian language has an official status of the language of interethnic communication. Even though it has been undermined by the new Law “On State Language”, adopted in 2009, Russian is still used in business and social media. Other languages informally used in Tajikistan are Uzbek, spoken in some parts of the country, in northern and western districts, bordering Uzbekistan, as well as Shugni, Rushoni, Yazgulyami, Ishkashimi, Wakhi and other Pamiri languages, spoken by indigenous population of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of Tajikistan (which constitutes almost half of the country’s territory). These languages belong to the East-Iranian group.

Tajikistan has a population of 10,147,000 (2023 estimate), of which around 27% are urban and the remaining 73% are rural, respectively). Most of the population are of Tajik ethnicity, estimated to be around 85%. Around 11% are Uzbeks, with other groups such as Russians, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Arab, Turkmen each amounting to less than 1%. Pamiris, estimated to comprise around 230,000 people, are an ethnic minority, however this view is contested by the titular ethnic group of Tajiks, and for official purposes, including in the recent census, Pamiris are registered as Tajiks.

97% of the population of Tajikistan are Muslims, with approximately 94% Sunnis (Tajiks and Uzbeks) and 3% Ismailis, a branch of Shia Islam (Pamiris). The 2009 Law on Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Organizations has recognized a “special role” of Khanafi school of Sunni Islam in the national culture and religious life of the Tajik people, while preserving Tajikistan’s status of a secular state, by declaring freedom of religion and religious tolerance as basic principles. In the remaining 3%, the biggest fraction is made up by the followers of Russian Orthodox Church, with smaller fractions of followers of various other Christian and other religious minority groups.

1.3. History

The earliest historic records on Tajikistan date back to about 500 BCE, when Tajikistan was part of the Achaemenid Empire. In the subsequent periods, it was part of ancient states of Greco-Bactria and Sogdiana, Kushan Empire, Parthian, Hephthalite and Sasanid Empires, Arab Caliphate (7th-8th centuries), Takhirid, Saffarid and Samanid states (8th-10th centuries), Karakhanid and Gaznevid Empires (11th-12th centuries), Mongol Empire (13th century), Chagatai Khanate and Timurid dynasty (14th century).

Modern Tajikistan was under the rule of the Khanate of Bukhara during the 16th century, until its collapse in the 18th century, when it was divided between the Emirate of Bukhara and Khanate of Kokand. The Emirate of Bukhara continued to exist control the southern part of modern Tajikistan until the early 20th century, while already in the second half of the 19th century (around the time of the Civil War in the United States), parts of the northern Tajikistan were conquered by the Russian Empire.

The period from 1917 until 1924 can be characterized as a fierce military confrontation between the Bolsheviks, who came to power in Russia, and their local supporters, on the one side, and Basmachi movement, led by former local vassals of emirs and khans and representatives of the clergy, on the other side. During this period, part of Tajikistan was under Bukhara People Soviet Republic, and from 1924 to 1929, it was part of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, under the status of an Autonomous republic. On October 26, 1929, the Tajik Soviet Socialistic Republic was formed as a separate republic of the USSR.

Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in September 1991. First presidential elections were held shortly afterwards; however, the nation could not hold together, and the civil war erupted in the first half of 1992. Officially, it ended on July 27, 1997, when a Peace Accord was signed between the government and the United Tajik Opposition.

1.4. Political System

According to Article 1 of the Constitution, Tajikistan is a democratic and secular state. State power is exercised based on its separation (division) into legislative, executive and judicial powers, respectively (Article 9 of the Constitution).

General elections are carried out on the multi-party system, with officially 7 registered political parties. Party activity is regulated by the Law “On Political Parties”. Following the latest parliamentary elections in 2020, 5 parties passed the 5 per cent threshold, namely: People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan—50.4% (12 seats); Party of Economic Reforms of Tajikistan (PERT)—16.6% (4 seats); Agrarian Party of Tajikistan (APT)—16.5% (4 seats); Socialist Party of Tajikistan (SPT)—5.2% (1 seat); and Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT)—5.1% (1 seat). The remaining two registered parties, the Communist Party of Tajikistan (CPT) and Social Democratic Part of Tajikistan (SDPT), did not manage to pass the 5% threshold, but two CPT candidates won seats from single-mandate constituencies. Accordingly, in the 63-member Majlisi namoyandagon (lower house of the Parliament/Majlisi Oli) of the Republic of Tajikistan (lower chamber of the national Parliament), the seats have been distributed as follows: PDPT—47 seats; PERT—5 seats; APT—7 seats; CPT—2 seats; SPT—1 seat; and DPT—1 seat. The previously registered Islamic Revival Party was banned in 2015 by the decision of the Supreme Court of Tajikistan and did not participate in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

The state is headed by the President, who is elected by a direct universal vote. For details on the organisation and competencies of the President, the Government, the Parliament as well as the judiciary, see Section III below.

Tajikistan is a civil law country, and the judicial decisions are not sources of law. Since independence of Tajikistan from the Soviet Union in September 1991 (which itself was declared dissolved in December 1991) an effort has been to build its legal system entirely anew, which mostly succeeded. It should be noted that laws and other acts of the USSR were applied until the adoption of the Tajikistan’s own new laws and other acts.

Many laws in Tajikistan, especially the ones that are believed to play important role in the legal system and in the economic development, have been developed with the assistance of foreign legal experts. Some of the important laws in the commercial and corporate fields—such as the Law “On Joint Stock Companies”, the Law “On Pledge of Moveable Property”, the Law “On Banking Activity”—were developed with the assistance and advice of experts from common law countries, under the USAID or the World Bank/IMF projects. Procedural laws, on the other hand—such as the Civil Procedure Code and the Economic Procedure Code (which regulates judicial procedure in commercial courts, which resolve disputes among business entities)—were developed with the extensive inputs by lawyers from civil law countries, specifically Germany, under the GIZ-sponsored projects. Islamic legal principles have also found their place in the legal system, although exclusively in the financial sphere, with the adoption of the Law “On Islamic Banking” in 2014.

Tajikistan is a state based on the rule of law (Article 1 of the Constitution). The legal system in Tajikistan is based on the hierarchy of legal norms, which are also divided based on the area of regulation. According to Article 7.1 of the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On Legal and Normative Acts”, the legal system of Tajikistan includes:

According to Article 10 of the Constitution and Article 8 of the Law “On Legal Normative Acts of the Republic of Tajikistan”, international legal treaties recognized by Tajikistan are a constituent part of the legal system. In case of a conflict between the laws and the recognized international legal treaties, the international legal treaties prevail. However, international legal treaties must not contradict the Constitution.

According to Article 53.1 of the Law “On Legal Normative Acts of the Republic of Tajikistan”, the sources of official publication of laws, international treaties, other legal acts (including directives of the ministries and state committees) are official (state-owned) newspapers (gazettes) “Jumhuriyat” (official press organ of the President and Government) and “Sadoi Mardum” (official press organ of the Parliament). All laws, international treaties and other legal acts must be published in these newspapers to come into legal force in Tajikistan.

All legal acts are adopted (promulgated) and published in Tajik language as the state language. At the same time, texts of all legal acts are also prepared and published in Russian language, as the language of interethnic communication. For the purposes of official interpretation, the Tajik text controls.

2.1. The Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan

The Constitution of Tajikistan was adopted on November 6, 1994, and was changed on September 26, 1999, June 22, 2003, and May 22, 2016, each time by a referendum. The full up-to-date text of the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan is available in Tajik, Russian and English.

2.2. Constitutional Laws of the Republic of Tajikistan

As of today, there are 15 standing constitutional laws in Tajikistan, including the following:

2.3. Codes and Laws of the Republic of Tajikistan

2.3.1. Codes

The codes are essentially laws, adopted with the intention to exhaustively regulate a specific system of relations (transactions). As of today, there are 21 standing codes, including:

2.3.2. Laws

Although the Law “On Normative Legal Acts of the Republic of Tajikistan” provides for the laws adopted through referendum, there are no such laws so far. Currently, there are over 400 valid laws (excluding amending laws), adopted by the Parliament. A complete list and texts of the laws in chronological order can be found on the official webpage of the National Center for Legislation under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan (Tajik and Russian).

It should be noted that the laws in Tajikistan often contemplate regulations that have not been adopted and/or properly promulgated, thereby inhibiting implementation of such laws.

2.4. Treaties

International treaties, to which Tajikistan has become a party, are an integral part of its legal system and pursuant to Article 10 of the Constitution, prevail over national legislation (except for Constitution). Texts of some of the multilateral of Tajikistan can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan (in English, Russian and Tajik). Bilateral treaties on legal assistance can be found on the website of the Prosecutor-General’s Office (in Russian only), and avoidance of double-taxation (in English, Russian and Tajik, respectively.

Executive legal acts include orders of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, resolutions of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan and directives of the ministries and state committees (of the Government).

2.5.1. Orders of the President

The President issues orders on matters, referred to his competence under Article 69 of the Constitution. A complete list of orders with texts can be found on the official webpage of the President (Tajik and Russian).

2.5.2. Resolutions of the Government

The Government issues resolutions mainly in cases specifically referred to in specific laws and/or orders of the President, for the purposes of their implementation. Unlike that of the President and/or of the Parliament, the competence of the Government is not specified in the Constitution. A complete list of resolutions with texts can be found on the official webpage of the President (Tajik and Russian).

2.5.3. Directives of Ministries and State Committees

Like resolutions of the Government, directives of the ministries and state committees of the Government are developed and passed to provide for the implementation rules for the laws and/or orders of the President, within the specific area of the competence of the respective ministries and state committees. Texts of the directives can usually be found on the webpages of ministries and/or state committees that have issued them (see below, under Section III(b)ii).

3. State Order in the Republic of Tajikistan

According to Article 1 of the Constitution, the Republic of Tajikistan is a sovereign, democratic, legal, secular and unitary state. The form of government is declared as presidential but is better characterized as semi-presidential (or super presidential, according to some classifications). The state power is based on the principle of its separation into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

3.1. Legislative Branch – Parliament

The supreme highest representative and legislative body of the Republic of Tajikistan is Majlisi Oli (Supreme Assembly). It consists of two chambers: Majlisi milli (National Assembly) and Majlisi namoyandagon (Assembly of Representatives). The first two-chamber Parliament was elected in 1999. A joint session of Majlisi Oli (where both chambers sit together) is convened at least twice a year.

3.1.1. Majlisi Milli

Majlisi milli has 33 members, of whom 25 are elected by local legislatures (majlises of provinces, districts, and Dushanbe) and eight appointed by the President. In addition, each former president, if so decides, can take a life sit in Majlisi milli.

The powers of Majlisi milli include:

For more information, please refer to the official website of the Majlisi milli (Tajik, Russian)

3.1.2. Majlisi Namoyandagon

Members of Majlisi namoyandagon are elected for five years on the basis of direct elections. Majlisi namoyandagon operates on permanent and professional basis, with an all-chamber session held at least once a week. Majlisi namoyandagon has 63 members, of whom 22 are elected based on party lists and 41 in single-seat constituencies.

The powers of Majlisi namoyandagon include:

For more information, please refer to the official website of the Majlisi namoyandagon (Tajik, Russian, English).

3.2. Executive Branch: President and Government

3.2.1. President

The President is the head of state, chairman of the Government, and the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces. The President is elected for seven years on the basis of general elections. The same person cannot serve more than two Presidential terms (counting out the periods was reset with the amendments to the Constitution in 2016, after previous re-set in 2006, based on constitutional amendments of 2003). Emomali Rahmon (formerly Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmonov) was re-elected as a President of Tajikistan in 1999, 2006, 2013 and 2020. According to 2016 Constitution, Rahmon is declared as the Leader of the Nation and as such, is not restricted on the number of his re-elections to the post of President of Tajikistan. The official website of President of the Republic of Tajikistan contains the Constitution and Presidential orders (in Tajik and Russian, as referred above).

3.2.2. The Government

The Government of Tajikistan is headed by the President as the Chairman of the Government, and consists of the Prime Minister, the First Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, as well ministers and chairmen of various state committees and agencies. The Structure of Government can be found on the web site of the President. As of May 2023, the Government consists of 14 ministries, 3 state committees, 13 agencies, and 5 other bodies.

The following web sites of ministries, state committees, and agencies of the Republic of Tajikistan have some useful legal documents (in Russian language as a rule, but sometimes in English as well). Please note that some of the below links may not open within your region.

The local government consists of representative and executive bodies that act within their powers, defined by the Constitutional Law “On Local State Power Bodies”. A local government is represented in provinces, cities and districts by Majlises of people's deputies headed by a chairman, who is simultaneously a head of local executive. Deputies of local majlises are elected for five years.

Self-government on the community level is carried out on the basis of the Law “On Bodies of Self-government in Villages and Settlements”.

3.3. Judicial Branch: Courts

Courts system is envisaged in Article 84 of the Constitution, and consists of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Economic Court, the Military Courts, the Court of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, the Dushanbe city Court, regional, district, town, and city courts, as well as economic courts of provinces, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province and Dushanbe.

All judges in Tajikistan are appointed for the term of ten years, with no limits on reappointment. The courts system is divided into two parts, based on the subject-matter competence. The so-called courts of general jurisdiction consider criminal cases and administrative cases, as well as resolve civil (including family and labour) disputes. These courts are topped by the Supreme Court of the Republic Tajikistan, which acts as the highest appellate court.

Economic (commercial) courts, which consider disputes arising out of or connected to economic (business) activity between legal entities and/or sole entrepreneurs (proprietors) and /or state institutions (government agencies), are topped by the High Economic Court of the Republic of Tajikistan. The constitutional review, including the review of constitutionality of laws, other legal acts, as well as settlement of disputes over issue of competence of state bodies, is carried out by the Constitutional Court (Please note that link may only open using MS Edge browser).

The administrative (logistical) support, as well as the organisation of the functioning of courts, selection, and training of candidates for the position of judges (judicial trainees) is carried by the highest courts – the Supreme Court in relation to the courts of general jurisdiction and the High Economic Court – in relation to the economic courts. Their respective competences are defined in the Constitutional Law “On Courts”.

3.4. Prosecution Bodies

The bodies of state prosecution carry out supervision of exact and uniform application of laws on the territory of Tajikistan. The system of the prosecution bodies is centralized and headed by the Prosecutor General (General Prosecutor’s Office). The Prosecutor General reports to Majlisi Oli and President of Tajikistan and is appointed for a term of five years. Activities, powers, and the organization of the Office of the Prosecutor are regulated by the Constitutional Law "On [State] Prosecution Bodies of the Republic of Tajikistan" (2005, as amended; Russian)

4.1. Foreign Resources of Tajikistan Legislation