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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.Top of page
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.Top of page