to the participants of the meeting of the OSCE Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm
On December 1-2 in Stockholm, at the meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, representatives of civil society called for the initiation of the OSCE Moscow mechanism in relation to Turkmenistan.
Human rights activists believe that decisive international actions are needed to stop enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan. 20 years after the start of mass repression, the OSCE participating States should initiate the Moscow Mechanism in relation to Turkmenistan to address the problem of ongoing gross violations of human rights.
We invite you to familiarize yourself with the main content of the Appeal of civil society to the participants of the meeting of the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers in Stockholm.
December 1, 2021
2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the start of mass repressions in Turkmenistan. President Niyazov's regime has suppressed any dissent and cracked down on real or perceived opponents before. But it was in 2002 that the repressions became massive and systematic. They were directed not only at individual critics of the regime, but also at their environment - relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, taking on the character of "collective punishment".
It was then that the criminal practice of enforced disappearances in prisons began, which serves not only as a punishment for a particular convict, but also as a means of intimidating the whole society.
In response to the wave of mass repression, the OSCE participating States applied the Moscow mechanism against Turkmenistan. Professor Decaux's report, published in the spring of 2003 within the framework of the Moscow mechanism, effectively documented the total lawlessness and gross violations of human rights and illuminated the horrific picture of mass repressions in Turkmenistan. The report was followed by three UN General Assembly resolutions condemning the repressions and demanding the release of those arrested and an investigation into human rights violations.
With the coming to power of President Berdymukhammedov in 2006, the new government did not stop the practice of disappearances of people in prisons. Moreover, enforced disappearances continue to the present day.
Campaign «Show them alive!» has documented 162 cases of disappearances in Turkmenistan's prisons since 2002. This list is still incomplete. The total number of victims is estimated at several hundred. Of the documented cases, 97 are ongoing disappearances.
65 cases of people who were previously subjected to enforced disappearances were removed from the list of current cases based on verified and reliable data: 29 died in custody, 10 were released, and 26 continue to serve their sentences, but they were given visits and food parcels.
Throughout these years, the government denied families and the outside world any information about the disappeared. The detainees were denied visits, correspondence, telephone calls or other contacts with families, lawyers, doctors, etc. Keeping people in complete isolation from the outside world for years or access to legal or medical assistance is a gross violation of the national legislation of Turkmenistan and its international obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against tortures. Given the failure of the Turkmen authorities to conduct an effective investigation, some of these cases may be considered extrajudicial executions under international law.
An even more egregious violation of human rights is that many of those who disappeared in Turkmenistan's prisons were not released after their prison terms had expired.
As in the past, the government of Turkmenistan refuses to disclose any information about the disappeared to their relatives and to the international community. It continues to ignore the relevant decisions of intergovernmental bodies. The government is not taking significant steps to stop this gross violation of human rights. Instead, Turkmenistan is simulating an ineffective "dialogue" with international organizations on this issue.
The scale of the ongoing repression in Turkmenistan requires an adequate response.
We encourage OSCE participating States to engage the OSCE human dimension mechanisms with respect to Turkmenistan, namely the Vienna and Moscow mechanisms. The 20th anniversary of the start of the mass repression in 2022 would give this step a powerful symbolic meaning. Making tangible progress in ending enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan is essential to restoring justice for the victims.
· It is also important for their relatives and friends who have not had any information about them for almost twenty years, which in itself is a form of torture.
· This is important for the entire society of Turkmenistan, where no reforms and positive changes are possible.
· It must be borne in mind that everyone in the country – civil servants, civil activists, journalists and ordinary people – is at risk of becoming the next victim of enforced disappearance.
· This is important to prevent future reprisals.
Enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan must finally stop.
1. Crude Accountability (USA)
2. Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
3. Freedom Files (Poland)
4. Norwegian Helsinki Committee (Norway)
5. Human Rights Watch (International)
6. «Memorial» Human Rights Center (Russia)
7. Group of civil activists (Turkmenistan)
8. Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Bulgaria)
9. Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (Austria)
10. Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan (Netherlands)
11. Association of Independent Lawyers of Turkmenistan (Netherlands)
12. Turkmen.News (Netherlands)
13. Human rights movement "Bir-Duyno" (Kyrgyzstan)
14. Legal Policy Research Center (Kazakhstan)
15. Public association "Kadir-Kasiet" / "Dignity" (Kazakhstan)
16. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
17. Promo LEX (Moldova)
18. International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
19. Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)
20. Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
21. Association of women migrants «Consent» (Georgia)
22. Association humanrights.ch (Switzerland)
23. Kharkiv Regional Foundation «Public Alternative» (Ukraine)
24. «Notabene» Public Foundation (Tajikistan)
25. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (Kazakhstan)
26. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly - Vanadzor (Armenia)
27. German-Russian exchange - DRA (Germany)
28. Center for International Protection (France)
29. Association of Ukrainian Monitors of Human Rights Observance by Law Enforcement Agencies (Association UMDPL) (Ukraine)
30. Center for Human Rights ZMINA (Ukraine)
31. Human Rights Matter (Germany)
32. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
33. Freedom Now (USA)
34. Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan)
35. Libereco Human Rights Partnership (Germany/Switzerland)
36. Truth Hounds (Ukraine/Georgia)
37. Dutch Helsinki Committee (Netherlands)
38. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) (international)
39. Civil Control (Russia)
40. Center for Human Rights (Georgia)
41. Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP (international)
42. International Council for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture (International)
43. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
44. Albanian Helsinki Committee (Albania)
45. "Together for intercultural interaction" (international)
46. Macedonian Helsinki Committee (North Macedonia)
47. Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture (Georgia)
48. Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
49. Belarusian House of Human Rights named after Boris Zvozsky (Lithuania)
50. Swiss Helsinki Committee (Switzerland)
51. Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan)
52. OSCE Swedish Network (Sweden)
53. Tatiana Shikhmuradova, a member of the family of disappeared Boris and Konstantin Shikhmuradov
54. "Women of the Don" (Russia)