Statement of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights to the Secretary General of the United Nations
M ay 31, 2004
Dear Mr. Secretary General,
We would like to bring to your attention the following statement regarding the consideration and adoption during the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights of the resolution entitled “The Situation of Human Rights in Turkmenistan” and the official response to it from the Turkmenistan government.
The Human Rights Commission resolution and the response to it from the Turkmen Foreign Ministry are based on completely opposite premises. The United Nations regards as of paramount importance human rights violations, which are regularly reported by Turkmen citizens who have suffered from them. Meanwhile, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry selectively pulls out from international reports on the situation parts where it shows that Turkmenistan is on the road to democracy and is willing to adopt democratic measures of its own. Yet, the Turkmen side has not reacted at all to the concerns of the international community and human rights organizations which are constantly ringing bells of alarm about the violations of human rights in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has not once deigned to respond to numerous cases of violations against freedom of conscience, unlawful detention, and persecution against religious groups and relatives of the convicted.
The Foreign Ministry complains about the absence in the resolution of concrete facts of human rights abuses in Turkmenistan. We are disappointed that this organization does not contact human rights organizations that systematically carry out human rights monitoring. Since the standard procedure, evidently, did not allow the Commission to describe in greater detail all known cases of human rights violations in Turkmenistan, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation listed its own short account of just a few of them.
On the abolishment of the death penalty
Undoubtedly, the abolishment of the death penalty is a positive step of Turkmenistan. However, the agonizing conditions of Turkmen prisoners in and of themselves lead to death, as is the case with Hoshgeldi Garaev and Hayit Kakaev. Turkmenistan did not confirm nor deny the deaths of Khallyiev T. and Yklymov A.
On political prisoners and prisoners of conscience:
Up until now, citizens who are believed to be political prisoners or prisoners of conscience have been serving sentences. Among them include Aimuradov M., Atakov, S, Babadzhanov R, Zakirov R, Matveev A, Mitogorov S, Nazyrov R, Satlyikov R, Shelekhov N. The Turkmen government has not responded to any appeals from human rights organization for these people. Only as a result of enormous international pressure was prisoner of conscience Farid Tukhbatulin released.
On free speech
There are no possibilities for impartial journalists to work in Turkmenistan. Journalists S.Ovezberdyiev, M. Berdyiev, S. Berdyiev were repeatedly subjected to persecution and beatings. Others who were subject to persecution include R. Esenov, A. Bairiev, as well as the son-in-law of R. Esenov, I. Kaprielov. Resident of Nebit-Dag G. Durdyikuliev, sentenced for conducting a peaceful demonstration, was violently thrown in a psychiatric hospital. Accredited independent foreign journalists are absent.
On prison conditions
Human rights organizations give thorough examples of inhumane treatment of detainees, prisoners. Yet the Turkmen authorities do not consider it necessary to end abuses of these people.
Thousands of people suffer from the Turkmen government’s wanton practice of persecuting relatives of the suspected and convicted criminals. The mass arrests following the alleged assassination attempt against President Niyazov is a case in point. (Examples of these well known arrests were contained in the report compiled by OSCE Special Rapporteur Emmanuel Decaux). Turkmenistan refused to discuss any of the convictions connected with November 25 incident and members of the family subjected to torture and psychotropic means were also fundamental issues contained in Decaux’s report.
Regarding the ban on arbitrary search in homes
This ban remained only on paper. Despite the fact that the Constitution of Turkmenistan declares that “no one has the right to enter into homes… against the will of the resident,” we have many cases of intrusion by government officials, with the purpose of searching the apartments of citizens. State officials harshly and cynically insulted, beat up and threatened citizens; searches were conducted in violation of the law.
Not one political prisoner, prisoner of conscience or individual convicted of fabricated charges was on the list of pardons.
On opposition and political parties
In Turkmenistan only one political party exists. The Turkmen opposition must operate in exile. Persecution of individuals declaring themselves part of the opposition or wishing to form their own party is never ending. In an interview with Izvestia newspaper, Martti Ahtisaari said: “nothing and no one should interfere with what the opposition wishes to do. Unfortunately, at present it is an authoritarian regime. Lots of work lies ahead for the OSCE.”
NGOs and Religions
The human rights groups Turkmenistan Helsinki Initiative and Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation must operate in exile. Not only representatives of international human rights organizations, but also members of the Turkmenistan human rights groups are completely deprived of the possibility of working inside the country. In November 2003, the “Dashoguz Ecological Club” was closed by the decision of the city court. In April 2004, the Justice Ministry notified the “Catena Ecological Club” that its registration was rejected.
Up until now, groundless limitations on religious activities have not been revoked, including the complicated registration procedures, a ban on conducting religious meetings, participation in unregistered religious groups, and so on. Persecution and detention of pious citizens continue. Twelve people were fined by the Nebit-Dag city police. Not a single religious community after the relaxing of registration rules has been able to register. And even the Protestant church “Great Grace,” located in the capital Ashgabat, which had applied to register three weeks from the time of the easing of the rules, has so far not received a response to its request.
Freedom of movement
Turkmenistan did not confirm or deny an existence of “black lists” with the names of thousands of citizens who have been deprived to move freely. S. Begmedov has been persecuted and exiled twice from Ashgabat to Dashoguz. International human rights observers and journalists still can not get entry visas.
Regarding Willingness to Collaborate
Turkmenistan does not observe international human rights obligations it has ratified at the United Nations and as a member state of the OSCE. In light of the growing human rights crisis after the November 25 incident, ten OSCE member states authorized Emmanuel Decaux to elucidate a number of disturbing questions regarding the investigation following the alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov. Turkmen authorities refused to cooperate with the OSCE and did not allow the rapporteur and members of the commission into the country. Moreover, the OSCE representative expressed his displeasure that Turkmenistan did not appoint an expert of its own.
The OSCE Chairman in Office’s Envoy for Central Asia, Martti Ahtisaari remained upset with the human rights situation in Turkmenistan.
At the meeting with other high level representatives and delegations of international organizations, as well as with Solomon Passy April 8-9, 2004, not one word was mentioned about the human rights violations in Turkmenistan. Nor was anything said about the necessity of reforms to correct the situation, the willingness of Turkmenistan to implement the UN and OSCE resolutions, the position of the Turkmen government regarding the necessity of political transparency and independent mass media, and the realistic steps needed to make the Turkmen leadership improve the atmosphere for registration and ensure unimpeded NGO activity in the country.
Currently the Turkmen government has not demonstrated the political will to the existing recommendations made by the international community.
We would be grateful to you for the distribution of this statement as a document under Agenda Item 117 (c) at the General Assembly.
Representative of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
03 june 2004