Although Turkmenistan’s human rights record came under scrutiny at a recent meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NBCentralAsia political commentators say nothing will improve unless OSCE member states exert direct pressure on the country.
Turkmen opposition leaders and human rights groups discussed human rights abuses in Turkmenistan with representatives from OSCE member countries at the grouping’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, which ended in Warsaw last week. NBCentralAsia has been told that the session involved more people representing Turkmenistan than at previous events, and they were able to set out a clear picture of the human rights situation in their country.
One expert on the country told NBCentralAsia, “The annual OSCE forum… is needed to support and protect the ordinary person against the machinery of the state. If no such human rights mechanism existed, the people of Turkmenistan might get the impression that the regime of Turkmenbashy [President Saparmurat Niazov] has the support of the world democratic community.”
In Warsaw, the Turkmen human rights activists urged the world community not to tolerate violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Turkmenistan – an OSCE member - and to impose sanctions. Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Turkmenistan, an opposition party in exile, was critical of the OSCE’s mission in Ashgabat.
Tajigul Begmedova, who heads the Turkmen Helsinki Fund, called for more pressure to be put on the regime, telling NBCentralAsia, “The Turkmen leadership realised long ago one can simply ignore statements made by international organisations such as the OSCE… If those at the top of the OSCE took a more principled stand, it would bear fruit.”
Begmedova suggested that the annual change in the OSCE’s chairmanship creates a situation where the only measures ever taken are temporary ones, while the organisation’s true aims remain unrealised. Moreover, she said, the situation in Turkmenistan does not directly impact on the interests of other OSCE members, so none of them will take on the task of applying tough sanctions against it.
In addition to sanctions, Begmedova would like to see proper human rights monitoring put in place.
(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region.) IWPR