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Turkmenistan: Hopes for human rights improvement after 'Turmenbashi' dashed-new report

Journalists intimidated, including by forced psychiatric detention threats

Ahead of the second anniversary (14 February) of the present government’s term in Turkmenistan, Amnesty International has released a new report on the poor human rights situation in the country, including details of how journalists, activists and religious believers are all targeted by the authorities.

The present government of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power on 14 February 2007, after the death of Saparmurad Niyazov. There were widespread hopes that after the repressive rule of the self-styled “Turkmenbashi” there would be an improvement in the country's abysmal human rights record.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Programme Director Nicola Duckworth said:

"While President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov reversed some policies of his predecessor, he has still to live up to his promises of human rights reform.

"Journalists, civil society activists and religious believers are still subject to harassment and intimidation by the new government.

"The list of human rights violations is long: clampdown on dissent, unfair trials, internal exile, enforced disappearances all continue two years after the government's pledges to improve the human rights situation. Unless it takes immediate measures, there will be little to distinguish the present government from the previous one.”

Amnesty International is concerned that as part of a policy to silence civil society activists and deny freedom of the media, the Turkmen authorities have launched a new wave of repression. In particular, journalists who work with foreign media outlets that publish information critical of the authorities have been subjected to harassment and intimidation.

For example, Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev, a contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has told Amnesty about attempts to fire-bomb his house, about how the outside walls of his home have been daubed with threatening graffiti, and of how doctors from a psychiatric hospital and officers from the Ministry of National Security have repeatedly pressured him into attending psychiatric check-ups. Mr Durdykuliev has previously been the victim of forced confinement within psychiatric hospitals in Turkmenistan.

Amnesty is making 19 recommendations to the two-year-old government, including that it ensure that everyone in Turkmenistan is entitled to a fair trial, has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, the right to freedom of religion and the right to be free to leave and return to the country.

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