Turkmenistan
Head of state and government
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
5.2 million
Life expectancy
65.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f)
72/56 per 1,000
Adult literacy
99.5 per cent

Freedom of expression, association, religion and movement continued to be restricted. Dozens of people imprisoned following unfair trials remained in prison, many held incommunicado. At least eight conscientious objectors served prison terms.

Repression of dissent

The authorities continued to suppress dissent. Journalists working with foreign media outlets known to publish criticism of the authorities faced harassment and intimidation. Independent civil society activists were unable to operate openly in Turkmenistan. Fear for dissidents’ safety was heightened after President Berdymukhamedov called on the Ministry of National Security (MNS) in September to fight those who, according to the government website, “defame our democratic law-based secular state and try to destroy the unity and solidarity of our society.”

  • Prisoners of conscience Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev, associated with the NGO Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, continued to serve prison terms for “illegal acquisition, possession or sale of ammunition or firearms”, imposed in 2006 following an unfair trial. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention studied the case and concluded in August that the two men were arbitrarily detained to punish them for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association and for their human rights activities. It stated that the two had been denied a fair trial and called on the authorities to promptly release them and award them appropriate financial compensation.
  • In September, the satellite TV channel K+, which broadcasts to Central Asia, aired an interview with Farid Tukhbatullin, director in exile of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR). It provided people in Turkmenistan with a rare opportunity to receive information about human rights in their country from a non-governmental source. Subsequently, the TIHR website was disabled by an attack by unknown hackers, until the group moved its site from a Moscow host to one in another country. In October Farid Tukhbatullin received reliable information that MNS officials had discussed “get[ting] rid of [him] quietly”, in a way that was hard to trace.
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Freedom of religion

Religious activity was strictly controlled. In its January report to the Human Rights Committee, Turkmenistan stated that “[t]he activity of unregistered religious organizations is prohibited”. Many religious minorities continued to be denied registration, often without explanation. Lack of registration made them more vulnerable to raids and other harassment by the authorities.

  • In October Protestant Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for “swindling”. His supporters believed he was targeted for his religious activity and that the evidence produced against him was fabricated. The court reportedly ordered that he be forced to undergo treatment for alleged drug use, a practice which his supporters denied.

Refusal to serve in the army remained a criminal offence. At least eight Jehovah’s Witnesses were serving prison terms for conscientious objection and three more were serving suspended sentences.

  • Dovleet Byashimov was detained in August and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment by Turkmenabad City Court for his refusal to serve in the army on conscientious grounds. After his arrest, he was reportedly held incommunicado and severely beaten.
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Enforced disappearances

The authorities continued to withhold information about the whereabouts of dozens of people arrested and convicted in connection with the alleged assassination attempt on former President Saparmurad Niyazov in 2002. Calls on the authorities to disclose information about those who had died in custody remained unanswered.

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Freedom of movement

Dissidents and religious believers were in many cases prevented from travelling abroad on the basis of a “black list”.

From July onwards officials prevented scores of dual passport holders from leaving Turkmenistan unless they surrendered one passport and acquired an exit visa if they chose to keep their Turkmenistani citizenship. The attempt to remove citizenship without proper legal procedures and without the possibility of appeal or review by an independent court may amount to a violation of the human right not to be arbitrarily deprived of nationality.

“Propiska” – the system of registering the place of permanent residence – continued to restrict people’s rights to freedom of movement within Turkmenistan, and affected access to housing, employment, social benefits, health care and education. The threat of losing a “propiska” was used by the police and security services to prevent people complaining of ill-treatment by police.

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