Annual Report: Turkmenistan 2013

Report
May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Turkmenistan 2013

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TURKMENISTAN

Head of state and government Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov

A law on political parties was passed allowing for formal political opposition. However, opposition figures, journalists and human rights defenders continued to suffer harassment by the state. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread.

Background

In February, President Berdimuhamedov was re-elected with 97.4% of the vote. The OSCE did not send election monitors, citing limited political freedom in Turkmenistan.

In March, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that although Turkmenistan showed a “new willingness” to improve its human rights record, a disparity between legislation and implementation persisted.

Turkmenistan remained closed to international scrutiny: despite a visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross, no independent international organizations were allowed to carry out monitoring. Turkmenistan failed to fully co-operate with UN human rights mechanisms.

On 9 October, the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights held hearings on human rights in Turkmenistan.

Rights to freedom of expression and association

Human rights defenders were unable to operate openly. Critical media reporting was rarely tolerated and journalists, human rights defenders and other activists continued to be subjected to harassment.

Several prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression. Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadziev remained arbitrarily detained after being sentenced following unfair trials in August 2006 for their human rights work.

  • On 11 January, the Law on Political Parties was passed, legalizing the formation of political parties. On 21 August, the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs was established, the first alternative to the ruling Turkmenistan Democratic Party permitted since 1991. However, human rights defenders and political opposition activists expressed doubts about the government's willingness to allow open political debate.
  • On 5 October, former government minister Geldimurat Nurmuhammedov was detained in Ashgabat and sent to a drug rehabilitation centre in Dashoguz for six months of treatment. He had no history of drug use. There were fears he would be subjected to forced medical treatment, possibly as punishment for his political activities and an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where he criticized the government and called the ruling party “unlawful”.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by security forces against people suspected of criminal offences. These included electric shocks, asphyxiation, rape, forcibly administering psychotropic drugs, deprivation of food and drink and exposure to extreme cold. Impunity for such abuses remained the norm and complaints by victims were rarely pursued.

  • On 4 August, the Foreign Ministry announced that amendments had been made to the Criminal Code criminalizing torture.

Prison conditions

Prison conditions fell short of international standards. Overcrowding, poor sanitation and poor nutrition were common and facilitated the spread of disease. Bribes were often required to obtain food and medicine.

Enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention

The whereabouts of dozens of people convicted in unfair trials in 2002 and 2003 for the alleged assassination attempt on then President Niyazov remained unknown. Relatives had heard nothing for over 10 years, and did not know if their loved ones were still alive. The authorities reportedly harassed and intimidated relatives of detainees who tried to lodge appeals.

Despite allegations by non-government sources that at least eight of those convicted had died in detention, the authorities failed to disclose any information or open investigations.

  • Tirkish Tyrmyev, former Commander of Border Troops of Turkmenistan, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in 2002 for abuse of power. His relatives did not know his location but reported in March that he had been given an additional seven-year sentence as his release date approached, allegedly for a crime against a prison guard.

Freedom of movement

The propiska system of registering an individual's place of residence remained in place, restricting freedom of movement and impeding access to housing, employment and services.