Turkmenistan: New president must end torture and repression

13 recommendations to next president published

Ahead of elections on 11 February, Amnesty International today (8 February) called for the next president of Turkmenistan to end torture and repression as the organisation published a list of human rights recommendations to the president.

The 13-point document sets out a human rights reform plan for the next President of Turkmenistan to put an end to stifling freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and torture, and unfair trials, as well as violations of social and economic rights.

As a first step, Amnesty International is calling on the new authorities in Turkmenistan to immediately release all prisoners of conscience and to address other cases included in a case-list published by Amnesty International.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“President Niyazov’s rule was synonymous with repression and it’s imperative that his successor brings human rights to Turkmenistan.

“We need to see prisoners of conscience released, people who have been tortured given redress, and freedom of expression guaranteed - including unfettered access to the internet.”

The regime of the late President Saparmurad Niyazov ruthlessly repressed any form of peaceful dissent. Dissidents were tortured and imprisoned after unfair trials or forced into exile. People were dismissed from their jobs and barred from travelling abroad simply because they were related to a dissident, while the authorities targeted human rights defenders, portraying their activities as “treason” and “espionage”.

Amnesty International has produced a list of specific cases where action should be taken. These include Ogulsapar Muradova, a human rights activist who was detained in June 2006, sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in an unfair trial in August, and died in suspicious circumstances shortly afterwards. Despite worldwide international pressure the authorities have failed to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into her death and her two co-defendants remain in prison. Amnesty International believes that the three were targeted to punish them for their peaceful work as human rights defenders.

Further steps should include the retrial in fair proceedings of the dozens of people convicted in connection with an alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov in 2002; the lifting of travel restrictions imposed on dissidents and their relatives; and effective investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.

Background information

According to official reports, President Niyazov died on 21 December 2006 of cardiac arrest. The same day the Turkmen authorities appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Kurbanguly Berdymukhammedov as acting president. President Niyazov’s constitutionally designated successor, the chairman of the Mejlis (Parliament), was dismissed the same day and criminal charges were reportedly brought against him.

On 26 December the Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council) approved the nomination of the acting president and another five candidates for presidential elections due to take place on 11 February 2007. All are members of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the only registered party in the country. The interim government ignored calls by exiled opposition groups to allow opposition leaders to run in the presidential elections.

As a party to several United Nations human rights treaties, Turkmenistan is obliged to uphold key human rights principles. In recent years the UN Commission for Human Rights and the UN General Assembly have deplored the human rights situation in Turkmenistan. In October 2006 the UN Secretary General concluded that “gross and systematic violations of human rights” continued in Turkmenistan.

Full recommendations to the new government of Turkmenistan:

1: Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience

2: Ensure that all political prisoners and those convicted in connection with the November 2002 alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov are retried in proceedings which meet international standards on fairness and to which international trial observers have access

3: Disclose information about all deaths in custody that have occurred in suspicious circumstances and initiate impartial and thorough investigations into all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment; publish the scope, methods and findings of these investigations and bring to justice those found responsible

4: Ensure respect for and protect the human rights of political dissidents, religious believers, civil society activists and journalists - and ensure that they are able to carry out their peaceful activities free from harassment,and without threat of detention and imprisonment and other human rights violations

5: Ensure the protection of the human rights of the family members of political dissidents, religious believers, journalists and civil society activists

6: Lift travel restrictions imposed on dissidents and their families

7: Grant the International Committee of the Red Cross and other independent observers access to prisoners including those imprisoned in connection with the November 2002 alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov

8: Introduce legislative provisions to ensure that a civilian alternative of non-punitive length is available to all those whose conscientiously-held beliefs preclude them from performing military service

9: Promptly initiate fundamental reforms of domestic law and institutions to implement the country’s obligations under the United Nations human rights treaties to which Turkmenistan is a party

10: Issue standing invitations to the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council that have requested a visit to Turkmenistan and grant access to international non-governmental human rights organisations

11: Fully implement the points set out in the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and by the United Nations General Assembly in recent years

12: Implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (issued 2005), the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (issued 2006), and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (issued 2006)

13: Fully implement the recommendations set out in the 2003 report by Prof Emmanuel Decaux, who was appointed Rapporteur on Turkmenistan by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

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