The European Union and Turkmenistan held the fifteenth round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue on 18 December, in Brussels.
Both sides discussed openly, and in a constructive spirit, developments in the rule of law and the human rights situation in Turkmenistan and in the EU, as well as their cooperation in relevant multilateral fora, in particular within the UN system. An open and transparent dialogue is an essential part of the bilateral relations between the EU and Turkmenistan. In this context, the EU welcomed the intensified high-level engagements with Turkmenistan, including the joint visit of the EU Special Representatives for Human Rights and for Central Asia in April 2023, and the EU-Turkmenistan Inter-Parliamentary meeting held in June 2023. Significant progress in the field of human rights and democratisation remains a prerequisite for the ratification of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement by the European Parliament, as specified in its resolution of 12 March 2019.
Turkmenistan informed about the ongoing legislative process and plans to advance the country’s human rights commitments. The EU urged Turkmenistan to adopt effective anti-discrimination measures and protect the human rights of women and girls, children, LGBTIQ+, persons with disabilities and persons belonging to religious and minority groups. The parties discussed the recent parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan. Noting the recent visit of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) to Ashgabat, the EU called for implementation of its recommendations.
While recognizing Turkmenistan’s cooperation with the UN regarding the study on the prevalence of violence against women in families, the EU encouraged Turkmen authorities to take prompt and decisive steps to combat sexual and gender-based violence, including through the criminalisation of domestic violence. The EU also called for the de-criminalisation of consensual homosexual relations.
Serious concerns about enforced disappearances and conditions of detention facilities, including torture, ill-treatment and unhindered access for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were raised by the EU. The parties discussed the elimination of forced labour in the cotton industry, welcoming Turkmenistan’s cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Noting the government’s objective to digitalise the country, the EU underlined the importance of freedom of opinion and expression, right to information and independent media. The EU stressed the need to ensure internet access for all citizens and to lift the blockages of websites and social media networks.
The EU also raised a number of individual human rights cases during the dialogue. A list of cases of concern was handed over by the EU representatives. It was agreed to further strengthen dialogue on individual cases and follow up through regular bilateral discussions.
The Turkmen delegation was led by Yagmyr Nuryev, Director of the Institute of State, Law and Democracy of Turkmenistan. The EU delegation was led by Dietmar Krissler, Head of the Central Asia Division of the European External Action Service. The Ombudswoman of Turkmenistan, Yazdursun Gurbannazarova, participated in the dialogue.