More than 50 non-governmental organizations from many countries have called on OSCE participating States to invoke OSCE human dimension mechanisms with respect to Turkmenistan.
On December 1, in the framework of the Parallel OSCE Civil Society Conference organized by the Civic Solidarity Platform and held in Stockholm on the eve of the OSCE Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, an appeal by non-governmental organizations to OSCE participating States regarding the human rights situation in Turkmenistan was adopted.
The appeal states that the year 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of mass repression in Turkmenistan. Repression affected a large number of people. It was then that the criminal practice of enforced disappearances in prisons started, which serves not only as punishment for a particular convict, but also a means of intimidating the whole society.
Enforced disappearances did not stop when the incumbent President Berdymukhamedov came to power and continue to the present. The Prove They Are Alive! campaign has documented 162 cases of disappearances in Turkmenistan’s prisons since 2002. In the context of severe suppression of civil liberties and denial of access to the country for foreign human rights organisations and international observers, this list is inevitably incomplete. The total number of victims is estimated at several hundred. As in the past, the government of Turkmenistan refuses to disclose any information about the vast majority of the cases from the list of the disappeared to their relatives and the international community. It continues to ignore relevant decisions by inter-governmental bodies and has avoided taking any significant steps to end this gross violation of human rights, instead simulating an ineffective “dialogue” with international organisations on this issue.
Signatories of the appeal assert that the scale of continued repression in Turkmenistan requires an adequate reaction. They call on concerned states and intergovernmental organisations to renew strong and consistent international pressure on the government of Turkmenistan. The international community must actively insist that Turkmenistan stop the practice of enforced disappearances; provide information on the fate and whereabouts of all people on the list of the disappeared to their families and international organisations without any further delay; immediately release all individuals whose prison terms have expired; allow international observers into prisons, including the infamous Ovadan Depe; permit family visits, medical care, and legal assistance to those in prison; and comply with international human rights standards regarding enforced disappearance and torture.
The appeal calls on OSCE participating States to invoke the OSCE human dimension mechanisms with respect to Turkmenistan, namely the Vienna and the Moscow mechanisms. Taking this step on the 20th anniversary of the beginning of mass repression in 2022 would have a powerful symbolic meaning. Eradicating enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan is important for the restoration of justice for the victims, it is also important for their relatives and loved ones, for the entire society of Turkmenistan, and for prevention of repression in the future.
As of now, the appeal has been signed by more than 50 NGOs from various countries. Collection of signatures continues at https://forms.gle/UXRxqfXZSLD6QDwZ9.