Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Tale of 2 SOFAs

It turns out that at the same time Armenia has been noisily grappling with the application of its bases agreement with Russia in the context of a multiple murder case, Tajikistan has had a similar issue with Russia, albeit in a case involving one local victim and two Russian military suspects. Details here. Excerpt:
The trial is starting at a time of particular controversy in Tajikistan over the legal status of the Russian base and its soldiers, after a street brawl last month involving some drunk Russian soldiers in their underwear caused a local scandal. As is often the case with foreign military bases around the world, the story became a touchstone for discussion about Tajikistan's sovereignty vis-à-vis its massive ally. 
It's also an interesting comparison to a far larger controversy in Armenia over a Russian soldier's murder of seven members of a local family. That case got a lot more public attention than the murder in Tajikistan in large part because of the circumstances: the Armenian family was killed randomly and one of the victims was a baby, while in Tajikistan the victim knew the alleged killers, who reportedly owed him money. 
But in the wrangling between Yerevan and Moscow over the jurisdiction over the case, one compromise was that the Russian soldier would be tried at the base. Armenia's leaders kept pushing, however, and ultimately got his case transferred to the Armenian legal system.
In the Teshaboev case, however, the Tajikistan government has not commented publicly, and if there is any negotiating between them and Moscow, it's going on behind the scenes. So it's not clear if the decision to return the suspects from Russia to Tajikistan to face trial at the base is a compromise of sorts on Russia's part. The story also has been barely covered in Tajikistan's press, which no doubt reflects the sensitivity of this issue in Dushanbe. So we shouldn't expect exhaustive coverage of the case, much less pressure to hand the two soldiers over to Tajikistani jurisdiction.

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