Tajik lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov will be the recipient of the 2019 Homo Homini Award, given for his commitment to defending basic human rights and to fair trial for all the citizens of Tajikistan.
The Homo Homini Award will be presented March 5 2020 during the opening of the festival by Ukrainian director, former political prisoner and 2018 Sakharov Prize laureate Oleg Sentsov, and accepted in abstentia by Buzurgmehr’s brother, activist and lawyer Jamshed Yorov. In 2015 Buzurgmehr was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his representation of political leaders.
Buzurgmehr Yorov has promoted human rights in Tajikistan for many years despite facing severe persecution for his work. He did not hesitate to defend clients who were targeted with politically motivated charges, whose cases other lawyers were not willing to take. He publicly complained in an interview that one of his clients was being subjected to torture while in pre-trial detention. As a result, Yorov lost both his property and his freedom, reads a statement from People in Need.
“We lawyers are not responsible for the actions of our clients, we are just performing our duty. It is our duty, therefore it must be performed to the highest standard,” answered Yorov after a secret service officer asked him to be less active in defending the arrested members of Islamic Renaissance Party.
In 2015, Yorov was one of a few lawyers who agreed to represent 13 members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), and was himself arrested on the same day that the Supreme Court of Tajikistan labelled the IRPT a terrorist organization. Police raided both his home and legal office without a warrant. Yorov was detained and ultimately charged with forgery, fraud, “arousing national, racial, local or religious hostility” and extremism.
Before his sentencing, Yorov read aloud an 11th century poem by a Persian poet: “Society is spoiled by a few ignorant people who believe themselves the wisest.” As a result, authorities charged him with contempt of court and he was sentenced to additional two years.
Since the 1990s, People in Need has presented the Homo Homini Award to people and groups who have significantly contributed to the defence of human rights, democracy, and the non-violent resolution of political conflicts. Past laureates include Chinese literary critic and dissident Liu Xiaobo, Azerbaijani lawyer Intiqam Aliyev and Nicaraguan farmer Francisca Ramírez.