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Turkmenistan fails to keep human rights promises

Boris Shikhmuradov, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, is one of many subjected to enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan

Boris Shikhmuradov, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, is one of many subjected to enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan

© Private

12 February 2009

In February 2007, a new government came to power in Turkmenistan, promising to uphold human rights. Two years on, politically motivated harassment, detentions and imprisonments continue unabated in the country.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power on 14 February 2007, after the death of former President Saparmurad Niyazov, amid hopes that he would improve the country's abysmal human rights record, marked by repression of any form of peaceful dissent.   

"While President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov reversed some policies of his predecessor, he has still to live up to his promises of human rights reform by swiftly ending enforced disappearances, releasing prisoners of conscience, ending torture or other ill-treatment and lifting restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and religion," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

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

A new Amnesty International document, Individuals continue to be at risk of violations in Turkmenistan, lists cases of many people who are waiting for justice. Although the situation of several individuals whose cases have been taken up by the international community has improved, releases from prison were most often due to pardons rather than to transparent and legal processes in accordance with international law and standards.

"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," Nicola Duckworth said.

The authorities launched a new wave of repression in April 2008, as part of their policy to silence civil society activists and deny freedom of the media. Amnesty International has learned of many cases where journalists who cooperated with foreign media outlets that published information critical of the authorities were subjected to harassment and intimidation.

Amnesty International has called on President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his government to live up to the promises they gave and to fulfil their international obligations.

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