It is customary to assume that the new Turkmen authorities are implementing a number of reforms in the country. In particular, the educational reform, expanded Internet access and amendments to selected laws have been reported. Furthermore, the government is also set to adopt a revised Constitution.
Apparently, the official Turkmen delegation will be primarily emphasizing the aforementioned positive reforms – primarily only anticipated for the time being- in an attempt to prove its commitment to democratic change at the «Turkmenistan - European Union» meeting, which is scheduled to take place this week.
The human rights organizations are striving not only to increase the awareness of the EU community on the prospective (anticipated) reforms in Turkmenistan, but also to report the real events happening in the country. However, the Turkmen life portrayed by the Turkmen authorities does not comport with reality.
Despite the declared commitment of Turkmenistan’s government to democratization moves, public activists, journalists and some unwanted individuals continue to be repeatedly persecuted and, moreover, the repressions have recently exacerbated.
The public activist and environmentalist Andrey Zatoka, sentenced to imprisonment at the beginning of 2007 and pardoned later the same year, is still being harassed by the special services. Early June the officials from the Ministry of the National Security prevented him from leaving the country to participate in the international meeting of environmental experts. A. Zatoka is one of many residents who were deprived of the freedom of movement by the Turkmen authorities.
Ovaz Annaev and his family members are also deprived of the right to exit the country. O. Annaev’s blame lies in being the relative of the Turkmen opposition member Khudaiberdy Orazov. The Turkmen special services considered this to be solid grounds to prevent him from exiting the country. On June 15, the staff members of the Immigration Service did not allow O. Annaev to leave for Moscow to receive medical treatment.
The civil society activist Valery Pal was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment in May 2008 on trumpeted-up charges. Not satisfied with such a severe punishment, on June 16 the law-enforcement authorities forfeited V. Pal’s property, though this was not stipulated by the court’s ruling. Moreover, during the confiscation the court and law enforcement officers did not present any documents authorizing them to conduct the forfeiture of property to V.Pal’s family and his attorney.
The correspondents of the Turkmen Service of Radio Liberty based in Turkmenistan are regularly subjected to persecution by the law-enforcement agencies. The persecution methods used by the special services range from cutting off correspondents’ telephones to explicit threat and intimidation of the correspondents and their relatives including children.
The aforementioned facts are just the well-known reported cases of the harsh violation of basic civil rights, which occurred during the current month. They vividly demonstrate the gap between the government’s pledges to implement positive change and practical moves taken by authorities, which are not in line with the declared intentions.
Hopefully, during negotiations with the Turkmen delegation, the representatives of the European Union will be urging Turkmenistan not only to reaffirm its commitments, but respect the rights and liberties of the country’s citizens.