We are now discussing the topic of local and regional institutions. In Turkmenistan, these mechanisms are tailored to the cult of the president. Take, for example, the presidential elections that took place on March 12 in Turkmenistan. Actually, the word “elections” is too strong a word. It’s just that on this day there was an illegal transfer of power from father to son, so to speak “by inheritance.” The entire process: from the announcement of early elections to the elections themselves, everything took place in violation of the law. And you saw it, and you know. Including international institutions and the OSCE. Let's honestly admit that all Turkmen presidential election campaigns over the past 30 years aimed to mislead both the people themselves and the international community.
The second thing that is important to focus on is the work of the Turkmen Ombudsman, one of whose duties is to monitor compliance with fundamental human rights in Turkmenistan, including the transparency and legality of presidential elections.
The report of our Ombudsman for 2021 was recently published.
The Turkmen Ombudsman, like the institution of democracy and law, are essentially puppets in the hands of the authoritarian regime. Why does this conclusion arise? Read the report and you will not find a single reasonable example of freedom of speech, assembly, religion and other rights of Turkmen citizens enshrined in the Constitution. As always, the Ombudsman diligently shifts attention to insignificant examples of social protection, passing them off as progress. Gross and systematic violations of the rights of Turkmen citizens to choose a leader, to freedom of movement, to transparent justice, to use the Internet, and to appeal against illegal actions of officials are deliberately hidden. Child labor in the country has been a 30-year-old scourge of Turkmen society, but this topic is taboo.
Any mention of a shortage of basic food products, medicines, or comments about the impossibility of withdrawing money from a bank card is perceived by the authorities as an attack on the constitutional order. Participation in Internet chats, communication with foreign journalists, foreign opposition instantly turns you into traitors to your homeland, you will be branded, labeled, and categorically added to the list of persons wanted by Interpol.
These days, tens of thousands of Turkmen migrants around the world are deprived of the right to return to their homeland. Why? It’s just that greedy consular officials do not renew their old passports. The OSCE is silent, not a single word in their defense. Yes, recently the authorities announced that they would begin issuing certificates with a limited period instead of passports, presenting this as the president’s concern for people. In practice, citizens were given a simple excuse. Certificates are issued only to those whose passports expired during the pandemic. What should those whose passports expired 5-10 years ago do? Due to the policy of Turkmen isolationism, these citizens have become outcasts. There are tens of thousands of them.
In the latest report, the Ombudsman does not mention a word about political prisoners who have been languishing in Turkmen dungeons for many years. They are deprived of the right to correspondence, to meet, and their relatives are deprived of information about their fate. In prisons there is unsanitary conditions, endless extortions and bribes, bullying, humiliation of human dignity, violence...there is deaf silence about all this. The courts and the prosecutor's office do not dare to acquit an innocent person if he is a dissident against whom local intelligence services are fabricating criminal cases. But for PR purposes, the authorities annually practice amnesty. Firstly, this concept is completely perverted, and secondly, such mercy of a “master” is available only to criminals. People disliked by the authorities who find themselves behind bars on trumped-up charges will continue to rot in prison.
When we tell you about these violations, some answer that this is the internal law of the state, which has an Institute of Democracy and Law and an Ombudsman. What if these structures are just another fake? What if the Ombudsman is a puppet who not only admits violations, but is afraid to even breathe? Why is the OSCE coddling this, why do you even call this body the Institute of Democracy and Law in your reports? Why not honestly admit that this is an exemplary Institute for strengthening a dictatorial regime?
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights