Amnesty International Calls n New Turkmenistan President to Address the Country’s Abysmal Human Rights Record
Ahead of the presidential elections in Turkmenistan on February 11, Amnesty International issued today a list of recommendations for the next president to improve human rights. Some of these include ending the stifling freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and torture and unfair trials as well as violations of social and economic rights.
"The next president, whoever it may be, has an opportunity to lead Turkmenistan into the international community of nations that allow freedom of expression," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Obviously, state-controlled media and government-monitored Internet access are not the hallmarks of an open and engaged society. The new government needs to quickly enact policies to encourage its citizens to engage in civil society, not retreat."
The regime of the late President Saparmurad Niyazov ruthlessly repressed any form of peaceful dissent. Dissidents were tortured and imprisoned after unfair trials or forced into exile. People were dismissed from their jobs and barred from traveling abroad simply because they were related to a dissident while the authorities targeted human rights defenders, portraying their activities as "treason" and "espionage." The subordination of executive, legislative and judicial powers to the president was significant to the failure of addressing impunity or counteracting the widespread abuse of human rights.
"As a first step, Amnesty International calls on the new authorities in Turkmenistan to immediately release all prisoners of conscience and to appropriately address all other prison cases," said Maureen Greenwood-Basken, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia. "We are providing the government a compendium of cases highlighting the people who have been imprisoned for many years following unfair trials for peacefully expressing their rights. In some instances, these dissidents may have been tortured or ill-treated."
Ogulsapar Muradova, a human rights activist, was detained in June 2006, sentenced to six years imprisonment in an unfair trial in August and died in suspicious circumstances shortly afterwards. Despite worldwide international pressure the authorities have not conducted a thorough and impartial investigation into her death, and her two co-defendants remain in prison. Amnesty International believes that the three were targeted to punish them for their peaceful work as human rights defenders.
Further steps must include the retrial in fair proceedings of the dozens of people convicted in connection with the November 2002 alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov, the removal of travel restrictions imposed on dissidents and their relatives, and effective investigations into allegations of torture and other ill- treatment in detention and punishing the perpetrators.
Amnesty International urges the new Turkmenistan government to comply with its international obligations and implement the recommendations issued by international human rights bodies.
According to official reports, President Niyazov died early on December 21, 2006, of cardiac arrest. The same day the State Security Council and the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Medical Industries Kurbanguly Berdymukhammedov as acting president. President Niyazov’s constitutionally designated successor, the chairman of the Mejlis (Parliament), was dismissed the same day and criminal charges were reportedly brought against him.
On December 26, 2006, the Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council) approved the nomination of the acting president and another five candidates for presidential elections due to take place on February 11, 2007. All are members of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the only registered party in the country. The interim government ignored calls by exiled opposition groups to allow opposition leaders to run in the presidential elections.
As a party to a number of United Nations (U.N.) human rights treaties, Turkmenistan is obligated to uphold key human rights principles. As a member of the Organization for Security and Co- operation in Europe (OSCE), Turkmenistan is bound to uphold its commitments with regard to the "human dimension," which include the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, the right to a fair trial, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
In recent years the U.N. Commission for Human Rights and the U.N. General Assembly have adopted resolutions deploring the human rights situation in Turkmenistan. In October 2006 the U.N. Secretary General, reporting to the U.N. General Assembly, concluded that, "gross and systematic violations of human rights continued in [Turkmenistan]".
Note: For a copy of Amnesty International’s recommendations to the next Turkmenistan government, please contact Jason Opena Disterhoft at email@example.com, +1-202- 544-0200 ext. 302
U.S. Newswire February 7, 2007