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Posted by admin on 2005/4/21 15:15:00 (1172 reads)

Open Letter

AI Index: ACT 50/012/2005 (Public)

News Service No: 100

20 April 2005

The organizations joining this appeal are unconditionally opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances in all countries around the world on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and that it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As long as the death penalty is maintained, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated. Executions are brutalizing and only serve to reinforce the cycle of violence. They achieve nothing but revenge and cause anguish for the innocent relatives of those who are executed.

One hundred and twenty countries -- more than half of the countries in the world -- have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. An average of over three countries a year have abolished the death penalty in law or, having done so for ordinary offences, have gone on to abolish it for all offences.

On 20 April 2005, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution on the question of the death penalty calling for a moratorium on executions and the observance of international safeguards in death penalty cases. We welcome its adoption and urge all countries in Europe and Central Asia that retain the death penalty to follow the Commission's recommendations.

In particular, we are calling on the relevant authorities in Belarus and Uzbekistan, whose countries are the last executioners in Europe and Central Asia, to move swiftly towards abolition by introducing a moratorium on death sentences and executions as a first step with a view to complete abolition of the death penalty in due course.

We are calling on the governments of all countries and territories in the region that currently have moratoria in place to fully abolish the death penalty as a matter of urgency.

We urge the Presidents to exercise political leadership on this issue and to do all within their remit to further the trend towards abolition in the region.

The introduction of moratoria in Belarus and Uzbekistan is particularly pressing as flawed criminal justice systems in both countries provide a fertile ground for judicial error. There have been credible allegations of unfair trials, and torture and ill-treatment, often to extract "confessions", on a regular basis. In Belarus between four and seven people have reportedly been sentenced to death and executed every year since 2000. President Islam Karimov said at a press conference in December 2004 that between 50 and 60 people had been sentenced to death in Uzbekistan in 2004. However, both governments have consistently failed to publish comprehensive statistics on death sentences and executions. The application of the death penalty in Belarus and Uzbekistan is surrounded by secrecy. As a result death row prisoners and their relatives are subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. Neither the prisoners nor their relatives are informed of the date of the execution in advance, denying them a last chance to say goodbye. The body of the prisoner is not given to the relatives for burial and they are not informed of the place of burial.

Around 150 prisoners have "accumulated" on death row since Kyrgyzstan introduced a moratorium on executions in December 1998. Many death row prisoners have been waiting for years in a state of continued uncertainty as to their ultimate fate, which constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Kazakstan as well as the internationally unrecognized regions of Abkhazia and the Dnestr Moldavian Republic have also continued to pass death sentences.

Russia has a moratorium on death sentences and executions in place and is now the only country of all 46 members of the Council of Europe that has still not abolished the death penalty in law despite its promise upon accession to the organization to abolish it no later than 1999. Tajikistan and the internationally unrecognized region of South Ossetia also have moratoria on death sentences and executions in place.

In most of the countries in the region that no longer carry out executions, relatives of death row prisoners, who had previously been executed, have still not been able to find out where their loved ones were buried. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, for example, domestic legislation still stipulates that the place of burial is not disclosed.

We are concerned that the conditions on death row in the region fall far short of international standards. In Belarus, for example, death row prisoners are not entitled to any outdoor exercise and electric lighting is on day and night. In Kyrgyzstan some death row prisoners have reportedly lost mobility due to lack of exercise.

Many governments in the region have frequently referred to public opinion as a key argument against introducing a moratorium or abolishing the death penalty. At the same time, several countries prevent an informed public debate from taking place by withholding vital information about the application of the death penalty, including comprehensive statistics on death sentences and executions. In Belarus and Uzbekistan there have been instances where the authorities have actively limited the peaceful expression of opinions on the death penalty, including by harassing and intimidating activists.

The organizations joining this appeal believe that governments should lead public opinion in matters of human rights and criminal policy. Historically it has almost always been the case that the death penalty has been abolished by governments even though significant sectors of the public favoured its retention.

We urge the governments in Europe and Central Asia to refrain from deporting people to countries where they are at risk of being sentenced to death, in line with international treaty obligations. Many countries have in the past facilitated such deportations and the death verdicts have often been pronounced in unfair trials accompanied by torture allegations. Russia deported at least two men to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in 2001 and 2000 respectively where both were sentenced to death, in violation of Russia’s human rights commitments as a member of the Council of Europe. Kyrgyzstan deported people to executions in China and Uzbekistan only months after Kyrgyzstan had put a moratorium in place citing its commitment to protect human rights. Other countries that deported people to executions in recent years included Kazakstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.


In the nineteenth century and the period leading up to the Second World War, the death penalty was permanently abolished in several European countries. Out of the atrocities of the Second World War came a new thirst for human rights resulting, among others, in a new wave of moves towards abolition of the death penalty. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of independent states from Eastern Europe to Central Asia gave a new impetus to the drive towards a death penalty-free zone in Europe and Central Asia.

We have great sympathy with the victims of crime and recognize the duty of governments to tackle problems of law and order. However, scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. The most recent survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the UN in 1988 and updated in 2002, concluded that "it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment."


International non-governmental organizations

Amnesty International - Irene Khan, Secretary General;

ECPM, Ensemble contre la peine de mort - Micheel Taube, President;

FIDH, International Federation for Human Rights – Sidiki Kaba, President;

Human Rights Watch - Rachel Denber, Acting Executive Director for Europe and Central Asia;

ICJ, International Commission of Jurists - Nicholas Howen, Secretary General;

International Federation of ACAT, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture - Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual;

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights - Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director;

International League for Human Rights - Scott Horton, President;

OMCT-Europe, World Organisation Against Torture - Laetitia Sedou, European Co-ordinator;

Penal Reform International - Paul English, Executive Director;

Regional non-governmental organizations

ACAT México [Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture] - Fabienne Cabaret, Legal Coordinator (Mexico);

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants - Esther C Bangcawayan, Women Program / Area Co-ordinator (Hong Kong);

Asian Human Rights Commission - Basil Fernando, Executive Director (Hong Kong);

Australian Coalition Against Death Penalty - Dorina Lisson, President (Australia);

Azerbaijan Foundation for Democracy and Human Rights Protection - Rena Sadaddinova (Azerbaijan);

Azerbaijan Human Rights Center - Eldar Zeynalov, Director (Azerbaijan);

Belarusian Helsinki Committee - Dzmitry Markusheuski, Press Secretary (Belarus);

Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law - Nigina Bakhrieva, Program Director (Tajikistan);

Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development - Emil Adelkhanov, Deputy Chair of the Council (Georgia);

Center of Legal Aid for Ethnic Minorities - Guncham Nurakhunova, Director (Kazakhstan);

Centre for Civil Initiatives - Albert Voskanyan, Director (Nagorno-Karabakh);

Centre for Humanitarian Programs - Batal Kobahiya (Abkhazia);

Chernihiv Public Committee of Human Rights Protection - Oleksiy Tarasov, Chair (Ukraine);

Congress of Caucasian Women - Maka Khangoshvili, Chair (Georgia);

Death Penalty Focus - Lance G. Lindsey, Executive Director (United States of America);

Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights - Nana Kakabadze, Chair (Georgia);

Helsinki Citizens' Assembly of Azerbaijan - Arzu Abdullaeva (Azerbaijan);

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly of Vanadzor - Artur Sakunts (Armenia);

Human Rights Center “Fray Francisco de Vitoria” - Miguel Concha Malo, Chair of the Board (Mexico);

Human Rights Committee - Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada (Mexico);

Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre - Ucha Nanuashvili, Executive Director (Georgia);

Human Rights Network "Todos los Derechos para Todos" [All Rights for All] - Edgar Cortés, Secretary General (Mexico);

Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan “Civil Assistance” - Ruslan Sharipov, Chair (Uzbekistan);

Independent Human Rights Group - Dinara Sayakova, Director (Kyrgyzstan);

Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan - Surat Ikramov, Chair (Uzbekistan);

Institute of Peace and Democracy - Leyla Yunus (Dr.), Director (Azerbaijan);

Italian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty - Arianna Ballotta, President (Italy);

Joint Committee for the Abolition of the Death Penalty - Father Franco Mella (Hong Kong);

Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing - Bill Pelke, President (United States of America);

Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese - Christine Or (Hong Kong);

Legal Aid Society - Nozima Kamalova (Uzbekistan);

Legal Forum Association - Yury Shentsov, Executive Director (Kyrgyzstan);

Legal Initiative - Valeri Fadeev, Chair (Belarus);

Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights - Fabián Sanchez Matus, Director (Mexico);

Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture - Tamara Chikunova, Chief-Coordinator (Uzbekistan);

Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights - Hon. Renny Cushing, Executive Director (United States of America);

Norwegian Helsinki Committee - Bjorn Engesland, Secretary-General (Norway);

Professional Assistance - Yelena Volochay, Member of Board (Ukraine);

Public Committee for Aid to Refugees “Civil Assistance” - Svetlana Gannushkina (Russia);

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty - Rick Halperin, President (United States of America);

Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights - Farid Tukhbatullin (Turkmenistan);

Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation on Human Rights - Tadzhigul Begmedova, Chair (Turkmenistan);

United Filipinos in Hong Kong Secretariat - Emmanuel C Villanueva, Secretary-General (Hong Kong);

Uzbekistan Human Rights Society "Ezgulik" - Vasila Inoyatova, Chair (Uzbekistan);

Women’s Association of Abkhazia - Natella Akaba, Chair of the Steering Board (Abkhazia);

Youth Human Rights Group - Maria Lisitsyna, Chair of the Coordinating Council (Kyrgyzstan).

Public Document


For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566

Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web:

For latest human rights news view

Posted by admin on 2005/3/31 15:18:00 (1008 reads)

On March 3, 2005, a well-known Turkmen writer, Rahim Esenov, was due to fly to Moscow for extensive medical examinations and treatment in one of the Russian hospitals to which he is assigned as a labor veteran. (Esenov holds dual Turkmen and Russian citizenship.)

Rahim Esenov was first subject to persecution in the beginning of 2004 (see press-release of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation from February 27, 2004), when Turkmenistani authorities charged him with smuggling for allegedly bringing into the country his novel about medieval India, Venetsenosnii Skitalets (Hallowed Wanderer). Based on these charges and in accordance with Article 177 of the Turkmen Criminal Code, the authorities accused him of “incitement of social, ethnic and religious hatred.” On February 27, 2004, officials of the special services took R. Esenov, who had suffered a stroke, from the hospital and brought him to the pretrial detention facility of the Ministry of National Security (MNS). When this incident provoked broad outcry abroad, the authorities had to release R. Esenov. Later, eight hundred copies of the book Ventsenosnii Skitalets were confiscated from Esenov and destroyed. Esenov called it an act of vandalism.

Last year Rahim Esenov was forced to sign a written promise not to leave the country. Since then he has appealed to the MNS and the General Prosecutor’s Office several times asking them to lift the ban on his leaving the country. He has received no official answers to any of his letters. However, once in a while special services hold “prophylactic talks” with him.

Rahim Esenov informed the MNS and the General Prosecutor’s Office in advance about his intentions to leave for Moscow on March 3 to seek medical treatment. After that, Esenov was summoned to the MNS by the investigator, Chardjou Sahatmuradov, who had been working on his case before. Sahatmuradov prohibited Esenov to leave Turkmenistan and threatened to reopen his case, since it has been not closed but only suspended.

Last year, Esenov’s son-in-law, Igor Kaprielov, also fell victim of persecution and was sentenced to a five-year suspended term. For a year he has been going to the police station every Saturday to check in.

Rahim Esenov said, “Now doctors are strongly recommending that I undergo extensive medical examinations and treatment in a specialized cardiology ward. Since I was taken straight from the emergency room to prison, all my trust in Turkmenistani doctors has disappeared. Besides, now (after the January announcement about the closure of all regional hospitals – THF note), Ashgabat hospitals discharge their patients after ten days or less, regardless of the state of their health. Plus, treatment costs big money here.”

As a Russian citizen and a veteran, Esenov is entitled to free hospitalization and treatment in one of the best Russian clinics. The ban on his leaving the country violates Esenov’s right to effective and reasonable medical care.

Recently Rahim Esenov was invited to the Russian Embassy in Turkmenistan where he was informed that the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, handed the Turkmen Ambassador to Russia, Halmurad Agahanov, a note regarding Esenov’s situation.

The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation asks international organizations to pay close attention to continuous persecution of dissidents and persons regarded as such by the Turkmen authorities.

Turkmen Helsinki Foundation,
/Translation by the Open Society Institute’s Turkmenistan Project/

March 31, 2005

Posted by admin on 2005/3/29 18:03:00 (971 reads)

“Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 – 2005”


The Government of Turkmenistan's human rights record remained extremely poor, and it continued to commit serious abuses. Turkmenistan is a one-party state dominated by President Saparmurat Niyazov, who retains his authoritarian monopoly on political power and on the Democratic Party, which remained the sole legally-recognized political party in the country. Niyazov has been president since independence in 1991 and may legally remain in office until 2010. In August 2003, Niyazov was elected to a life term as Chairman of the People’s Council, giving him a substantial say in the selection of any presidential successor. Government efforts continued to focus on fostering centralized state control and the glorification of the President. The unicameral parliament has no genuinely independent authority; in August 2003, the Peoples’ Council replaced it as the supreme legislative body. Parliamentary elections took place December 19. Foreign observers were not invited to monitor elections and all candidates were pro-government Democracy Party members cleared by authorities. President Niyazov controlled the judicial system. The Government severely restricts freedom of speech and does not permit freedom of the press. There were no domestic human rights groups. Throughout 2004, the Government remained repressive in its response to any perceived threats to the regime. While serious violations of religious freedom continued in Turkmenistan, the Government did make progress from a legislative perspective and with a noticeable reduction in harassment of minority religious congregations.

The United States maintained a three-pronged approach to promoting democracy and human rights. First, the United States urged the Government to respect human rights and advance democracy by raising these issues in high-level bilateral meetings and multilateral institutions, and by iterating its concerns in public statements. Second, the United States regularly advocated on behalf of individual cases of abuse, coordinating closely with other diplomatic missions and international organizations. Third, the United States funded programs designed to strengthen civil society and respect for human rights.

The United States recognized that the primary means of promoting democracy and human rights in Turkmenistan was to address the continued deterioration in the human rights situation after an armed attack on President Niyazov's motorcade on November 25, 2002. There were widespread, credible reports of human rights abuses committed by officials in the course of investigating the attack, including credible reports of torture and detention of suspects’ relatives. During the past year, the United States, through diplomatic efforts at the highest levels, continued to support efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to gain access to prisoners detained following that attack. In 2003, the United States and nine other Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) members invoked the "Moscow Mechanism" (for only the second time in the organization's history) which called for a Special Rapporteur on Turkmenistan's human rights abuses after the November 2002 attack. Throughout 2004, the United States consistently and publicly called for follow-through action on the OSCE Rapporteur’s report. In April, the United States and the EU jointly sponsored a resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights which condemned the Government for human rights abuses and called on the Government to adopt measures called for by the OSCE Rapporteur. In November 2004, the United States and the EU jointly introduced a successful UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Government’s human rights abuses and calling for fact-finding missions by international envoys to investigate reports of torture and abuse. The Government continued to refuse to facilitate such visits. While none of these efforts have so far resulted in accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred, this diplomatic strategy succeeded in keeping very serious human rights issues in the public eye.

In January 2004, the Government formally lifted the exit visa regime imposed in early 2003. The Government took this action in response to notification from the United States in late 2003 that Turkmenistan was risking sanctions for not meeting the freedom of emigration requirements under the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1994. Although the Government maintained a black list of select individuals not permitted to travel, freedom of movement improved. Throughout 2004 the United States continued to monitor the situation to ensure Turkmenistan’s compliance with its international obligations on freedom of movement. In November 2003, the Government enacted draconian laws on public organizations and religious groups that severely curtailed freedom of association and religion by imposing criminal penalties for unregistered activities. These human rights violations were also a focal point for U.S. diplomatic efforts in 2004. In Ashgabat, the U.S. Ambassador, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Commander of the U.S. Central Command and visiting OSCE delegations informed President Niyazov that the improvement of the human rights situation was of the highest priority, and high-level U.S. officials raised their concerns in Washington D.C. After sustained U.S. and international pressure, Turkmenistan removed the legal requirement that minority religions must have a certain number of members in order to obtain registration and dropped criminal penalties against unregistered religious groups and non-govern-mental organizations (NGOs). Four minority religious groups were permitted to register, as were several independent NGOs. Though registered, the religious groups continued to face difficulties in achieving all their rights under the law, and the United States continues to monitor the situation closely. The Government granted amnesty and released six conscientious objectors from prison in 2004. Government officials closed or destroyed at least six mosques.

To implement the second prong of its strategy, the United States raised concerns regarding individual cases of human rights abuse to the Government of Turkmenistan. In 2004, the Embassy coordinated with other diplomatic missions to protest the harassment and detention of a noted author. Upon his return to Turkmenistan, he was detained, his travel documents were seized and his relatives were arrested and accused of committing high crimes against the state. Intervention by the United States contributed to his release, and the cases against his relatives were reviewed. The Embassy consistently monitored and actively advocated on behalf of a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who was frequently harassed. In one case, U.S. intervention helped secure his quick release after he was abducted, blindfolded, injected with an unknown substance and threatened with 15 years in prison. The Embassy subsequently persuaded the Government to allow the journalist to depart the country in 2004.

In response to continued harassment of religious minority groups, the U.S. Embassy raised issues of freedom of worship with the Council of Religious Affairs and other responsible bodies within the Government of Turkmenistan. One principle concern was that the Government was hindering some registered religious groups from establishing places of worship. The Government cooperated on hosting a visit to Turkmenistan by a representative of the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who encouraged the Government to register additional religious groups and cease harassment.

The U.S. Embassy continued to advocate better treatment of relatives of those implicated in the November 2002 attack, urging the Government of Turkmenistan to cease systematically harassing them. In 2003, the Ambassador sent a letter to the Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan in advance of the annual presidential amnesty, urging the Government to release political prisoner Mukhammet Aimuradov and individuals imprisoned for refusing to perform compulsory military service due to their religious beliefs. The Embassy was a principal point of contact and advocacy for individual cases of abuse. The third prong of the strategy was to fund programs that strengthen civil society. The Government of Turkmenistan was a hesitant partner in civil society programs and educational exchanges; it often used bureaucratic mechanisms to delay or hinder implementation of exchange programs or registration and operations of truly independent NGOs. Nonetheless, in FY 2004, the Embassy awarded 30 Democracy Commission grants focusing on civic education, Internet access, the free flow of information, community self-help and women's and human rights issues. A U.S.-funded civil society development program focused on grassroots community development and advocacy. In FY 2004, 53 capacity-building training events were conducted for more than 1,032 participants under this program. In 2004, the United States gave more than 125 future leaders the opportunity to study and receive training in the United States through exchange programs. One new American Corner (four in total) and two new Internet Access Training Program sites (four in total) were opened in 2004, providing a critical link to the outside world by offering access to nonofficial sources of information. The Embassy also awarded three and four-year scholarships to 17 Turkmen college students to attend the American University of Central Asia in the Kyrgyz Republic. In order to support rule of law, the U.S.-funded program implemented by the American Bar Association’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI) provided support to the Legal Resource Center (LRC) at Turkmen State University (TSU). ABA/CEELI also worked with LRC staff to develop strategies to increase its accessibility to the public. Since January 2004, the LRC has organized training programs on Turkmenistan's labor legislation, the development of its criminal legislation, legal guarantees of women's rights and the development of civil legislation. By the end of May, a total of 198 people had participated in the seminars. Between January 1 and the end of May, 4,053 people visited the LRC's facilities.

ABA/CEELI continued to sponsor student participation in moot court competitions. Working with the administration of TSU, ABA/CEELI conducted a modified moot court competition on the national level. In April, 12 students gave oral arguments on a hypothetical case focusing on the International Criminal Court and submitted written briefs. The event provided a much-needed opportunity for Turkmenistan's law students to sharpen their practical legal skills.

ABA/CEELI's Street Law program in Turkmenistan developed over the past year in cooperation with TSU offered young people the opportunity to learn about the law and basic principles of human rights and democracy. Law students involved in the program learned techniques for teaching primary and secondary school students about their rights and responsibilities under Turkmen law. The program’s objective is to sensitize students at a young age to the ways in which the law can help solve critical family, social and political issues. Trainings during the past year covered topics such as children's rights under Turkmen law, the law on delinquency, administrative violations, the right to individuality, the right to marry and the legal status of women. The program was effective at promoting practical skills and legal knowledge among law student participants and providing desperately needed legal information to the population at large.

A civil law clinic in which TSU law students provide legal consultations under the supervision of qualified practicing attorneys began operating in Ashgabat in May 2004. This was the first clinical program in Turkmenistan, and it offers a unique opportunity for students to serve their community and gain practical legal experience. ABA/CEELI staff will provide ongoing training to clinic staff attorneys on managing a student-run clinical program and addressing practical and pedagogical issues surrounding clinical legal education.

The U.S. government-funded civil society development program supported a network of four Civil Society Support Centers (CSSC) that provided training seminars, technical support, information resources, networking opportunities and professional services to NGOs and associations. The United States provided training and resources to strengthen the financial and institutional sustainability of these centers, and also created opportunities to develop new centers. The program included funding to provide institutional grants for leading NGOs in specific sectors and community development grants with a focus on social partnerships to help NGOs engage with their communities and advocate for their needs at the local level. The United States also provided assistance in the development of a comprehensive legal and fiscal framework that will support and strengthen the NGO sector, as well as direct legal support and services for NGOs through the CSSC Network.

In 2004, U.S. funding to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) supported the International Organization for Migration’s work with the State Border Service on a Ministry of Justice-approved program attempting to ascertain the extent and patterns of TIP in Turkmenistan. Funding also supports an anti-trafficking public education campaign and training for the Border Service to combat TIP.

U.S. Department of State
March 28, 2005

Posted by admin on 2005/3/23 18:05:00 (989 reads)

There are no political prisoners in Turkmenistan, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said at a press conference summing up the outcomes of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's visit to Ashgabat.

"We do not have people arrested for political reasons. There are several people, wanted criminals, who stay abroad under the guise of refugees and spread filthy rumors," he said.

"Don't believe all that written rubbish," Niyazov said.

Yushchenko said at the press conference, "Democracy, freedom, and liberty are not just empty words for me and my partners in the Ukrainian government coalition. We will defend the values in which we believe and for which we have struggled. I want to be honest with my children and my nation. Maybe what counts most is not just that some problems exist. What really matters is that there should be a will to overcome them, and Ukraine has such a will."

Yushchenko said he was satisfied with his talks with Niyazov.

The Ukrainian leader argued that there existed "great prospects for cooperation" under energy and other projects, and that specific short- term cooperation plans were likely to be drawn up within the next few years.

Niyazov said that, at the talks, Yushchenko proposed weapons modernization, anti-terrorism action, and training at Ukrainian and Turkmen higher educational establishments as cooperation fields.

March 23, 2005

Posted by admin on 2005/3/21 15:23:00 (1118 reads)

Letter to Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Luxembourg

March 17, 2005

Jean Asselborn

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration

Hôtel Saint Maximin
5, rue Notre-Dame
L-2240 Luxembourg

Via facsimile: + 352 22 31 44

Dear Minister Asselborn,

We are a coalition of nongovernmental organizations concerned about the state of human rights in Turkmenistan. We urge you to introduce a resolution at the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemning the Turkmen government’s human rights record. This resolution should recognize that the human rights crisis in the country has worsened to the point that it is necessary to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Turkmenistan.

You are doubtless fully aware of the situation for human rights in Turkmenistan. The extent of Turkmenistan’s non-compliance with the international human rights instruments to which it is party is appalling. There are no free media, and no freedom of expression, assembly or association. No election in Turkmenistan has been free and fair. There are numerous people imprisoned on politically-motivated charges, after grossly unfair trials; often their relatives have been deprived of homes and livelihoods as collective punishment. Torture is widespread, and prison conditions can be deadly. National minorities are subject to blatant discrimination, and religious freedom is curbed. Individuals lose their homes, without adequate compensation, to the president’s grandiose urban remodeling schemes or to gratuitous demolitions.

When judged against global social and economic development goals, Turkmenistan represents an almost unique contemporary case of a country whose leadership is sending it on a backward course. State policies and practices on education (where the curtailing of higher education and the filling of the curriculum with classes devoted to President Niazov’s Rukhnama ideology represent a double blow), on overseas travel and contacts, and on access to information, are consigning Turkmenistan’s entire society to conditions of insularity and ignorance. A presidential order for the widespread closure of public libraries, including all libraries in rural communities, is currently being carried out. In the name of building the Turkmen nation, the government has also banned opera, ballet, circus, the philharmonic orchestra, and non-Turkmen cultural associations. Many members of the intelligentsia have left the country; people from all social strata and particularly from national minority groups are coming to see migration as the only alternative to a future living in such a restricted society cut off from the global community.

The president’s announcement on February 28 that he had ordered the closure of all hospitals outside the capital, if enacted, would be a development so grave in its implications for the suffering of the population at large that its only parallel would be with some of the actions of the most heinous regimes of modern times. As matters currently stand, Turkmenistan is not educating a new generation of doctors. If the past is any indicator, the wealth generated by Turkmenistan’s natural resources is more likely to be spent on grand projects of doubtful public benefit than on public services, leaving much of the population in poverty and deprivation. Under current conditions, public oversight of and accountability for how natural resource revenue is spent in Turkmenistan is inconceivable.

The resolution adopted at last year’s Commission expressed grave concern about many elements of this repression. The General Assembly adopted a resolution at the end of 2004, covering many of the same concerns. This was a very welcome development in the accrual of international criticism, but we would argue that the fact of the recent General Assembly resolution does not obviate the need for Turkmenistan to again come onto the Commission’s agenda this year. Most importantly, the 2004 General Assembly resolution does not take the international community’s position to the next level of action that is now required on Turkmenistan. With no significant positive response by Turkmenistan to the series of resolutions already passed, and developments such as the hospital closure announcement opening up new areas for grave concern, the international community must show that it is now prepared to step up the pressure. Specifically it should take the very concrete step of passing a new resolution at the Commission which authorizes the appointment of a Special Rapporteur.

This Special Rapporteur should be mandated to closely examine the situation of human rights in Turkmenistan. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur should determine what obstacles are preventing the implementation of provisions set out in previous resolutions for full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, fair trial,
access to detained persons, ending forced displacement, lifting restrictions on civil society, and the submission of reports to all relevant United Nations treaty bodies. The Special Rapporteur should suggest specific steps to be taken by Turkmenistan to overcome or remove those obstacles, as well as to comply with the provisions of the present resolution, and should make a realistic assessment of the scale and impact of steps taken by Turkmenistan to meet elements of previous resolutions. As a necessary step towards achieving these mandated activities, the Special Rapporteur should establish direct contacts with the government and with the people of Turkmenistan.

Further, we ask you to give serious reflection to how the absence of a resolution on Turkmenistan at this year’s Commission on Human Rights will be understood in Turkmenistan. The international community should resist giving in to the frustration and fatigue engendered by Turkmenistan’s intransigence towards the series of resolutions already passed in international fora—to do so would convey to the Turkmen government that its tactic of “facing down” the international community is working. It will also convey to the Turkmenistan authorities that small steps of the kind that Turkmenistan has reportedly signaled it may concede and which only fractionally meet the requirements of previous resolutions, can be traded for a relaxation of public international condemnation. It would be a very grave error to convey to a government such as this that basic obligations can be treated as “negotiables.”

The people of Turkmenistan languish under the rule of one of the most abusive governments in the world, and their situation is worsening. This is not the moment for the Commission on Human Rights to fall silent about this.

We thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Civil Activists for Democracy

Vyacheslav Mamedov, Timur Misrikhanov

Environmental Justice Foundation

Juliette Williams, Director

Human Rights Watch

Rachel Denber, Acting Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division

International Helsinki Federation

Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director

International League for Human Rights

Peter Zalmayev, CIS Program Manager

Memorial Human Rights Center

Vitaly Ponomarev, Head of the Central Asia Program

Turkmen Helsinki Foundation

Tadzhigul Begmedova, Chair

Turkmenistan Helsinki Initiative

Farid Tuhbatullin

Posted by admin on 2005/3/21 15:20:00 (1130 reads)

Text of report by Ukrainian television TV 5 Kanal on 21 March

Turkmen human rights groups are seeking Ukraine's support. The Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation has sent Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko an open letter asking him for help in solving problems related to human rights abuses in that country, the Ukrainian service of Deutsche Welle radio has said.

The Turkmen activists believe that the human rights situation in that country is catastrophic. Almost all political freedoms have been destroyed, and civil society is gradually being wiped out.

[Yushchenko is to pay an official visit to Turkmenistan on 22 March.]

Original source: TV 5 Kanal, Kiev
March 21, 2005

Posted by admin on 2005/3/18 15:21:00 (1128 reads)

An open letter to the President of Ukraine from Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Dear Mr Victor Yushenko,

The human rights organization, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, appeals to you in advance of your forthcoming visit to Turkmenistan.

Since the end of 1990-s, president S. Niyazov has usurped all the power in the country. He illegally declared himself president-for-life, and, currently, he is the head of both the state and the government. The human rights situation in Turkmenistan today is catastrophic. Fundamental freedoms, including those of expression, the media, association and religion do not exist; freedom to participate in political life has been radically denied; persecution of dissidents is accepted without comment. All possible restraints and any counterbalance to the president’s power have been eliminated. There is neither supremacy of law nor transparency of the legal proceedings in the country. Political prisoners, prisoners of conscience and civil society activists who, without fear, spoke out openly demanding the observance of the fundamental rights as set forth in the Constitution, are now held in prison in extremely harsh conditions. The government have been deliberately destroying the educational system in the country, its medical care and civil society.

You are, undoubtedly, aware of the Resolution, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 2004, condemning the dictatorial regime established in Turkmenistan. Unfortunately, the representatives of the former Ukrainian government at the Assembly abstained from voting when the Resolution on Turkmenistan was adopted.

International human rights organizations consider Turkmenistan as one of the most repressive and isolated countries not only in Central Asia but in the whole world. Recently, a group of non-governmental organizations, concerned with the situation in Turkmenistan, sent their appeal to the 61st Session of the UN Human Rights Commission to appoint a special reporteur on Turkmenistan.

Under the circumstances, the aspiration of a reformed Ukraine to continue co-operation with the dictator looks odd in our opinion, and pursuing the policy of the former government does not correspond to the principles proclaimed by Ukraine after the “orange” revolution.

We appeal to you to work out a new, different, policy towards Turkmenistan, making the democratization of Turkmenistan a key issue. We are urging you to use your visit to Ashgabad as a possibility to openly discuss with the Turkmen government the issues of observance of human rights in the country, the supremacy of law and the democratization of the Turkmen society.

Bear in mind that the money made from the economic agreements with foreign countries, including Ukraine, are not used to improve the welfare of the people of Turkmenistan, but to further escalate the personality cult of Niyazov, persecute people, strengthen the ‘unique’ anti-democratic society, and bring Turkmenistan nearer to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Thank you for your attention to the above issues.

Yours sincerely,

Tadzhigul Begmedova


Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Posted by admin on 2005/3/12 15:19:00 (1292 reads)

March 11, 2005

Prezident Turkmenistana Saparmurad A. Niyazov
Apparat Prezidenta

Your Excellency President Niyazov,

I am an Akhal Teke breeder in British Columbia, Canada. I have dedicated my life to introduce and promote this extraordinary horse breed to Canadians. It is my sincere wish that one day I can perhaps visit the Presidential Stables to view your horses who I have heard are some of the most beautiful specimens in the entire world. It would be wonderful for me to see Piyada and Yanardag, both of whom have already adorned several paintings and photos.

You have acquired, Your Excellency, a reputation at the international level for not only having a profound affection for Akhal Tekes but also for your immeasurable contribution towards the preservation and promotion of these unique horses. Your generosity in gifting noble Akhal Teke horses to other heads of state clearly illustrates the pride that you feel for these horses. I hope that my humble efforts to breed and promote Akhal Teke horses in Canada will be fruitful. We already had success last year with one of our Akhal Teke, a beautiful filly from the El line named “Almaty”. She won first place and reserve champion at a large exhibition. In addition to educating the Canadian equestrian community about Akhal Tekes, I take great pride in introducing Canadians to the Akhal Teke’s homeland. This great, ancient land that is Turkmenistan never fails to intrigue my audience. Truly, I sincerely hope that one day I can visit your great homeland. I do not think that books can do its splendor justice.

Another Turkmen breeder for whom I have great respect is M. Geldy Kyarizov. M. Kyarizov has demonstrated a wealth of knowledge about Akhal Teke horses. I have heard through the international community of Akhal Teke breeders that M. Kyarizov has been imprisoned for some time now and that his health is extremely poor. I do not wish, Your Excellency, to be disrespectful and ask you why M. Kyarizov is in prison. I am from Canada, and as you probably know, Canada is highly regarded worldwide as a peaceful and neutral nation. Canada does not disrespectfully probe into the affairs of other nations. After careful consideration, I have decided to write to you personally to present an offer. I am in great hope that you will see a value in this offer. I am respectfully asking that you exercise your power of Presidential pardon for M. Kyarizov, perhaps on the grounds that he is a gravely ill man who has served his country and Akhal Teke horses in the past with great fervor. Perhaps the National Day of the Horse could be an opportunity to exercise your Presidential pardon for M. Kyarizov. I can assure Your Excellency that this pardon would be regarded by the international Akhal Teke community as a great gesture of affection for the Akhal Tekes because it would show that you wisely see the benefits of making available the skills and knowledge of M. Kyarizov. Your Excellency, I hope that I have not offended you by presenting you with this proposition. Such was not my intent. I humbly implore you to give it consideration.

With immense respect,

Sandra de Blois, Ph.D.

Lone Larch Akhal Tekes


Posted by admin on 2005/3/3 18:06:00 (1134 reads)

A proposed measure by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to close down all hospitals outside the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, has drawn sharp criticism from outside observers and activists.

"The president's order to close hospitals outside of the capital is shocking even by the regime's own abysmal standards," Erika Dailey, director of the Open Society Institute's Turkmenistan Project, told IRIN on Wednesday from the Hungarian capital, Budapest. "I have not heard of policies this unapologetically retrogressive come out of Turkmenistan in a long while."

"Such moves by the Turkmen authorities will only further restrict the rights of Turkmens to healthcare," Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, told IRIN from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna, noting the high costs of clinics were already far beyond the financial means of most citizens.

"It is clear that these moves won't bring any good for people's health. On the contrary it will only worsen the situation with regard to healthcare," she maintained.

During a meeting with local officials on Monday, a government spokesman announced that Niyazov – otherwise known as Turkmenbashi the Great - had ordered the closure of all hospitals in the reclusive Central Asian state except those in the capital.

"Why do we need such hospitals?" the BBC reported him as saying. "If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat."

But for the country's 5 million inhabitants, the move will only exacerbate the state's already deteriorating healthcare system.

Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan had one of the least well-resourced healthcare systems in the Soviet Union, according to Dailey. However, following independence, the situation went from bad to worse and health standards declined further as a result of budget cutbacks, a brain drain and inadequate medical education and training.

"But Turkmenistan's health crisis is distinct and worse because it is the only government in the region that has deliberately dismantled the remaining infrastructure without budgetary justification," Dailey said, citing a decision in 2004 to lay off 15,000 healthcare professionals and replace them with army conscripts.

"Can you imagine any other government calling unskilled, semi-literate 18-year-olds giving inoculations and delivering babies "healthcare?" she asked.

According to the activist, Niyazov routinely fabricated healthcare statistics and had even prohibited doctors from diagnosing communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. "The government deliberately puts its head in the sand and deprives citizens access to treatment. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic spreads throughout the region, the human toll could be enormous," she warned, a concern Begmedova shared as well.

"We monitor the healthcare system in Turkmenistan and our findings sadly suggest that health services in the country do not even meet those standards that existed during Soviet times, not to mention international norms. People are not provided with the comprehensive health services they need," she explained.

Although it remained unclear whether the president's comments would result in a presidential decree or otherwise be codified as law and there was presently no indication of how or whether the president's will on this issue would be enforced in practice, the legalities in a lawless state were largely beside the point, Dailey said.

"Bureaucrats have in the past enforced off-hand statements of the president as if they had the force of law. The president's comment last year that gold teeth were unsanitary resulted in bureaucrats checking students' teeth as they entered schools and sending them back petrified if they had them," she said.
Asked what needed to be done, Begmedova called on the international community to raise the alarm, warning of possible humanitarian consequences if it failed to do so.

"The international community could assist the people in need if only the authorities agreed to it. But the official policy of Ashgabat is that they do not accept that such problems exist and everything is fine according to them. But hiding all these facts only aggravates the situation."

Dailey, however, was more forthright, calling for a stronger reaction to Monday's announcement in keeping the order from being implemented.

"The international community can also play a constructive role by helping create opportunities to keep the medical and health professions alive in Turkmenistan through scholarships, study tours, conferences. Only strong and sustained multilateral pressure on the dictatorship can send the message that, for once, it has gone too far," she said.

March 2, 2005

Posted by admin on 2005/2/22 18:08:00 (1200 reads)

There is much to admire about Parade magazine's annual list of the world's worst dictators, including the very fact of its existence. It's a useful reminder of the oppression under which much of the world's population still lives even as democracy is making progress in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Topping Sunday's list of tyrants is Sudan's Omar al Bashir, who bears responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan, where tens of thousands have died and two million have been uprooted by government-backed militias. Also ranked in descending order of awfulness are North Korea's Kim Jong Il, Burma's Than Shwe, Hu Jintao of China, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the leader of Equatorial Guinea.

Our one disagreement would be Parade's mention of Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf at number seven, just after Gadhafi. General Musharraf came to power in a military coup, overturning an elected government. But Pakistan remains a far freer place than any other country on the list -- and certainly freer than Cuba, whose Fidel Castro rates merely a Parade "dishonorable mention."

With occasional exceptions, Pakistan passes the test that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice laid out in her confirmation hearing last month: "The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the `town square test,' " she said. "If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society." Pick up a newspaper in Karachi and you'll read plenty of criticism of General Musharraf, who deserves to be replaced on next year's list by Fidel, or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

The Wall Street Journal
February 15, 2005

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