Turkmenistan
Head of state and government
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
5.1 million
Life expectancy
65 years
Under-5 mortality
45.3 per 1,000
Adult literacy
99.6 per cent

The UN Committee against Torture found torture to be “widespread” in Turkmenistan. The government continued to clamp down on journalists and human rights defenders.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were continued reports of torture or other ill-treatment of human rights defenders, journalists, and certain religious minorities by police, officers of the Ministry of National Security and prison personnel. The authorities failed to carry out effective investigations into such allegations.

In June the Committee against Torture published its Concluding Observations on Turkmenistan. The Committee expressed concern at the “numerous and consistent allegations about the widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of detainees”.

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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. The Committee against Torture urged the government to “ensure that human rights defenders and journalists, in Turkmenistan and abroad, are protected from intimidation or violence as a result of their activities”. The authorities continued to use confinement in psychiatric hospitals to silence dissent.

  • 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”, following an unfair trial in 2006. The Committee against Torture urged the government to comply with the 2010 request from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to promptly release them and award them appropriate financial compensation.
  • Dovletmyrat Yazkuliev, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was pardoned on 26 October as part of a presidential amnesty. After a brief trial earlier in October, he was found guilty of encouraging a relative to commit suicide and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. His supporters claim that he was targeted because of his outspoken reporting of a deadly explosion at an arms depot near Ashgabat in July. Earlier in the year, he had reported on the revolutions sweeping the Middle East and made comparisons with the situation in Turkmenistan.
  • Amangelen Shapudakov, an 80-year-old activist, was detained on 7 March and confined for 40 days in a psychiatric hospital after conducting an interview for Radio Azatlyq (the Turkmen language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) in which he accused a local government official of corruption.
  • The independent émigré news site Chronicles of Turkmenistan was hacked into and disabled on 18 July, days after it had published material on the arms depot explosion near Ashgabat. The hackers reportedly published information about users of the site, including those in Turkmenistan, putting them at risk of harassment by the authorities. Local officials visited the home of the editor’s mother, reportedly asking intimidating questions. She subsequently reported that she was under surveillance.
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Freedom of religion or belief

Religious activity in Turkmenistan remained strictly controlled. Many minority religious groups continued to face obstruction in registering, leaving them more susceptible to harassment by the authorities.

Refusal to serve in the army remained a criminal offence and there was no alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors. Eight Jehovah’s Witnesses were serving prison terms for conscientious objection, and one was serving a suspended sentence.

The Protestant Pastor, Ilmurad Nurliev, remained in prison.

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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 2002 assassination attempt on former President Saparmurad Niyazov. The Committee against Torture urged the government to ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into all outstanding cases of alleged disappearance, and to notify the victims’ relatives of the outcomes.

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Freedom of movement

On 1 August, Turkmenistani students studying in Tajikistan who had come home for the holidays were banned from returning to resume their studies. In October, the ban was lifted, but some students were still prevented from returning to their universities. The Turkmenistani authorities did not explain the reason for this.

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