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Posted by admin on 2020/10/22 10:02:00 (124 reads)

Sentence Highlights Politically Motivated Persecution

For Immediate Release

(Berlin, October 22, 2020) – Turkmenistan’s authorities should immediately and unconditionally release a lawyer imprisoned on bogus charges that appear to be in retaliation for his alleged ties with activists abroad, 10 human rights organizations said today. The authorities should quash his conviction.

On September 29, 2020, in a closed trial, a court in Balkanabad sentenced Pygambergeldy Allaberdyev, 48, a lawyer with a government oil and gas production office in the city of Balkanabad, to six years in prison on charges of hooliganism and intentional infliction of moderate bodily harm. Allaberdyev is currently in custody although his precise whereabouts are unknown.

“The trial and charges against Allaberdyev, and the surrounding circumstances, clearly suggest that the case is political,” said Rachel Denber , deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should release him immediately and annul his conviction.”
The 10 groups are the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Crude Accountability, the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan, Freedom Files, Human Rights Watch, the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

Allaberdyev’s arrest comes amid growing social tension in Turkmenistan and unprecedented protests among Turkmen living abroad. Turkmenistan has an extremely repressive government. The country is utterly cut off from any independent human rights scrutiny. The authorities tolerate no dissent and subject people it suspects of disloyalty to surveillance, arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment on trumped up charges following unfair trials. Torture and incommunicado detention are a serious concern. Dozens of people remain victims of enforced disappearances.

On September 5, police in Balkanabad arrested Allaberdyev for allegedly getting into a fight with another man. That day, when Allaberdyev and a friend were leaving a grocery store, the man attacked him and tried to provoke a conflict by arguing with Allaberdyev and grabbing him by the collar. The police arrived quickly. The other man accused Allaberdyev of instigating the conflict, and then left. The police arrested Allaberdyev and took him to the police station, where the other man appeared with his arm bandaged. The police told Allaberdyev that he had injured the man’s arm and rejected Allaberdyev’s request to see the medical reports documenting the man’s alleged injury. Allaberdyev denied the allegations. A source close to the case said that officers of the Ministry of National Security from Ashgabat appeared and questioned Allaberdyev about alleged connections with activists involved in the Turkmen protest movement abroad.
Allaberdyev denied these allegations.

The groups expressed serious concern about the lack of due process in Allaberdyev’s detention and trial. On September 5, police interrogated Allaberdyev in the absence of any legal representation. The authorities refused to allow his family to visit and rebuffed their attempts to deliver food and clothing parcels for him. The lawyer Allaberdyev’s family hired was granted access to him only on September 8. The authorities repeatedly rejected the lawyer’s requests for copies of the case materials.

On September 14, Allaberdyev’s wife, Satlykgul Allaberdyeva, following unsuccessful attempts to get any precise and credible official information about her husband’s arrest, requested written information about the official allegations against Allaberdyev and details surrounding his arrest from the Balkan provincial prosecutor’s office.

On September 16, the office referred the request to the head of the Balkanabad city police department. She has received no response. On September 24, a police investigator refused to provide one of Allaberdyev’s relatives any information about the formal charges against Allaberdyev, saying that he “can only share the case documents with the lawyer.” A source close to the case said the relative immediately arranged a phone conversation between Allaberdyev’s lawyer and the investigator. After a brief phone conversation, the lawyer, citing health problems, withdrew from the case.

The family tried unsuccessfully to hire another lawyer. Lawyers they approached refused to take on the case, most likely out of concern for government reprisals. The source said that one lawyer told them that “The case is political and is under the control of Ashgabat. Any lawyer [who takes on the case] may have problems.” The groups also received credible reports that Allaberdyev was under surveillance the week before his arrest. The Turkmen authorities have in the past used fake administrative hooliganism charges to retaliate against perceived critics.

Allaberdyev’s trial on September 29 was closed to his relatives and the public. The witnesses initially invited to testify were never called in to the courtroom. During the trial, Allaberdyev refused the services of a government-appointed lawyer. In light of the total lack of transparency and accountability in Turkmenistan’s criminal justice system, the institution of government- appointed lawyers cannot ensure effective and adequate legal representation, the groups said.

Because Allaberdyev does not have a lawyer and his family is not allowed to speak or visit with him, as well as authorities’ complete refusal to provide them any information on the case, the family has had difficulty getting official information about his case. On October 13, staff of the Balkanabad city court denied a request of Allaberdyev’s wife for a copy of the court ruling. The staff told her that her husband received the court decision and that she has no right to it. Under Turkmen law, only defendants, victims, civil plaintiffs, and their lawyers may receive copies of court rulings.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkmenistan is a party, protects the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly. Turkmenistan is also bound under the ICCPR to respect the right to a fair trial. Turkmenistan”s international partners, in particular the United States, the European Union (EU) and EU member states should press Turkmenistan to free Allaberdyev immediately and quash his baseless conviction, the groups said. They should also press Turkmen authorities to stop harassing people on mere suspicion of connections or interests in the activities of critics abroad, and to refrain from persecuting and intimidating Turkmen citizens at home or abroad in retaliation for their peaceful activism.

“By targeting Allaberdyev for alleged links to Turkmen activists’ movement abroad and prosecuting him on bogus charges, the Turkmen government is demonstrating its complete disrespect for basic rights and freedoms,” said Tadzhigul Begmedova, director of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “Turkmenistan’s international partners should remind the authorities about their binding international obligations and send a clear signal that the continued crackdown would lead to serious consequences.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Turkmenistan, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/europe/central-asia/turkmenistan

For more information, please contact:
In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Rachel Denber (English, Russian, French): +1-917-916-1266 (mobile); or denberr@hrw.org . Twitter: @rachel_denber
In Varna, for Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Tadzhigul Begmedova (Russian, Turkmen, Bulgarian): helsinkitadm@gmail.com .
In Moscow, for Memorial Human Rights Center, Vitalii Ponomarev (Russian): tel. +7-910-424-58-06, or ponvit@gmail.com .


Posted by admin on 2020/10/12 9:00:00 (134 reads)

For Immediate Release

Turkey: Turkmen Activist Faces Deportation Dursoltan Taganova Risks Arbitrary Detention, Torture if Returned Home

(Berlin, October 12, 2020) – The Turkish government should halt plans to deport the Turkmen activist Dursoltan Taganova to Turkmenistan, where she will be at grave risk of arbitrary arrest and torture, a group of 11 human rights organizations said today. Turkish authorities should immediately release Taganova from custody.

Turkey’s international partners should call on Ankara to uphold its international legal obligations and not deport Taganova, who is seeking asylum in Turkey, to Turkmenistan.

“Turkmenistan is known to severely harass and punish peaceful critics of the government,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “To return Dursoltan Taganova to Turkmenistan would place her at grave risk of persecution and torture. Turkey should abide by its international obligations not to send her anywhere she could face ill-treatment.”

The 11 groups are Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Crude Accountability, the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan, Freedom Files, Human Rights Watch, Institute of Human Rights, the Memorial Human Rights Center, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

Istanbul police detained Taganova, 29, on July 19, 2020, along with dozens of other Turkmen citizens, mostly migrant workers, who intended to join an unauthorized rally that day in front of the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul. The rally aimed to criticize the Turkmen government’s inadequate response to the Covid-19 crisis and to call for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s resignation.

Turkmenistan’s extremely oppressive government allows no independent media or human rights scrutiny. The authorities suppress any indication of dissent and political expression and have driven into exile or imprisoned political opposition members, human rights defenders and activists, and independent journalists. The justice system completely lacks independence and transparency. Torture is widespread and dozens of people have been forcibly disappeared in Turkmen prisons, some for more than 18 years. The Turkmen government routinely imposes informal and arbitrary travel bans on various groups, including activists and relatives of exiled dissidents.

The Turkish authorities banned the July 19 rally, citing Covid-19 related requirements. Following a complaint filed by the Turkmenistan consulate, the police arrested about 80 Turkmen citizens, including Taganova, as they gathered outside the consulate building.

Most detainees were released about five hours later. Taganova’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch that she was the only Turkmen citizen whom Turkish authorities kept in custody. The lawyer said the consulate’s written complaint specifically mentioned Taganova. The authorities alleged that she and four other Turkmen citizens had interfered with Turkmen diplomats’ work and threatened violence against them. She was charged under Turkey’s Law on Demonstrations and Public Meetings (Law 2911).

On the same day, Taganova was transferred to the Selimpasa deportation center in Istanbul for “exceeding the duration of [her] visa exemption [stay]…”, for preparing to attend an unauthorized demonstration, and for protesting against Turkey.

Taganova has lived in Turkey since 2011 and her passport expired that year. This made it difficult for her to legally extend her residency permit. She made numerous attempts to renew her passport via the Consulate of Turkmenistan in Istanbul, as prescribed by the Law on Migration of Turkmenistan, but was told that she needed to go back to Turkmenistan. She did not return to Turkmenistan, fearing she would be denied permission to leave.

Turkey is one of very few countries to which Turkmen citizens can travel without a visa for up to 30 days and where they may apply and obtain a residence permit renewal on an annual basis. In recent years, the renewal of Turkmen passports for citizens living abroad has become a serious problem, news outlets have reported. Although international law mandates that states renew passports overseas via respective embassies and consular services, Turkmen diplomats often refuse, telling Turkmen citizens that the new passports can only be issued at their place of residence in Turkmenistan, to compel them to return.

Taganova’s lawyer said that while in administrative detention at the Selimpaşa deportation center at the end of July, she applied to the Turkish migration authorities for asylum. Her application is under review.

On July 20, the Istanbul Provincial Migration Directorate ruled that Taganova should be deported to her country of origin, or a safe third country, for violating visa exemption requirements and because she poses a threat to the public order, health, and security of Turkey. On July 28, Taganova’s lawyer appealed to the Istanbul administrative court, challenging the deportation decision. That appeal is also under review.

On July 23, Taganova’s lawyer applied for her release from administrative detention. On July 27, the Istanbul court rejected the application. Taganova was transferred on October 5 to the Kirklareli Pehlivankoy women’s deportation center, 200 kilometers outside Istanbul.

“Turkish authorities have little basis for keeping Taganova, an asylum seeker, in custody and should immediately and unconditionally release her,” said Tadzhigul Begmedova, director of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “Turkish authorities should also ensure that she will not be sent back to Turkmenistan, where she is at serious risk of torture.”

Sending people to a country where they face a real risk of torture is prohibited under international law. Turkey is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, retaining a geographic limitation that excludes anyone not originally from a European country from full refugee recognition. Regardless of any geographic limitation under the Refugee Convention, Turkey must still abide in all cases with the principle of nonrefoulement, which provides that no one may be returned to a country in which they may face persecution.

Turkey also acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1998, which obliges states to ensure that they do not send anyone to a place where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

The UN Committee against Torture, in its concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Turkey, in June 2016, raised concern that Turkey maintains a geographic limitation only to people originating from Europe and has violated the nonrefoulement principle under art. 3 of the Convention Against Torture for sending people to countries where they were at risk of torture. The committee has called on the Turkish government to lift the geographic limitation and ensure that “no one is expelled, returned or extradited” to a country where they may risk torture. Turkmenistan routinely harasses and intimidates families of peaceful critics and dissidents abroad, including with physical violence and arbitrary detention.

The groups have received credible reports that Taganova’s family in Turkmenistan may be subjected to serious threats of persecution and intimidation in retribution for her peaceful activism.

“Turkish authorities have an obligation to protect Taganova from the persecution she faces if returned to Turkmenistan,” said Vitalii Ponomarev, Central Asia expert at the Memorial Human Rights Center. “Turkey should also ensure she has access to legal status and to essential services.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Turkey, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/europe/central-asia/turkey

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Turkmenistan, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/europe/central-asia/turkmenistan

For more information, please contact:
In Berlin, Hugh Williamson (English, German): +49-172-282-0535 (mobile); or williaa@hrw.org. Twitter: @HughAWilliamson
In Istanbul, Tadzhigul Begmedova (Russian, Turkmen): helsinkitadm@gmail.com.

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Posted by admin on 2020/9/8 10:51:00 (184 reads)

The Authorities Fear Street Demonstrations

On the evening of September 5, 2020, the police in Balkanabad (formerly Nebitdag, the administrative center of Balkan Welayat in the west of the country) detained 48-year old Pygamberdy Allaberdyev—a lawyer for the Nebitdagneft department of Ministry of Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan. At first they accused the lawyer of hooliganism. However, by the evening it became clear that the arrest was made on the order of the Ministry of National Security, for suspicion of having links to activists of the protest movement.

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Posted by admin on 2020/8/30 20:52:00 (198 reads)

Statement by the Prove They Are Alive! Campaign on the International Day of the Disappeared

August 30, 2020

Today marks the International Day of the Disappeared, and the government of Turkmenistan continues to disappear people into its medieval prison system in gross violation of the country’s own legislation and in violation of international conventions and human rights standards.

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Posted by admin on 2020/8/18 9:57:00 (238 reads)

According to reports from Turkmenistan, the authorities are increasing its pressure on civic activists, in an attempt to prevent the dissemination of criticism on the internet, and suppress information about street protests by Turkmen ex-pats overseas. (For more information, see: http://memohrc.org/en/news_old/stop-persecution-turkmen-civic-activists).
http://www.tmhelsinki.org/en/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3516

Many have activists described attempts to intimidate and pressure their relatives.

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Posted by admin on 2020/7/24 14:16:00 (290 reads)

Statement from Human Rights Organizations

July 23, 2020

We, representatives of human rights organizations from various countries, express our serious concern about the growing pressure on Turkmen civic activists inside the country and abroad, pressure on their relatives in Turkmenistan, and the threat of forced return to the country by participants in the protest movement outside of Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan remains one of the most repressive states in the world. Since the summer of 2019 there has been a significant growth in protests among communities of Turkmen migrants abroad (in Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, USA, etc.), and, according to some information, in Turkmen society itself.

A new wave of protest action was provoked by the inaction of the authorities after the catastrophic hurricane of April 27, 2020 in Lebap and Mary velayats. There were reports of damage to buildings, long-term power outages, and sewer and water supply failures. The authorities blocked entry into the affected regions and persecuted activists who tried to inform the world via the internet about what was happening. Unconfirmed information spread about public protests, including the blocking of roads in one of the regions of Turkmenabad on May 13.

On May 15, Turkmen activists living in Turkey initiated the first protest action in front of the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul. Around 20 people criticized the authorities for failure to provide assistance to the suffering population in the regions. They spoke about social problems and demanded the resignation of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

On May 20, a similar action took place in Northern Cyprus, with the participation of 35-40 Turkmen activists. On May 29, another action took place in front of the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul.

On June 26, a group of activists dressed in t-shirts with anti-presidential symbols marched through the streets of Istanbul chanting slogans demanding the resignation of the head of Turkmenistan. When the demonstration was over, unknown persons tried to kidnap the organizer, Khanum Rasulova, but she was protected.

Information about the protest demonstrations was widely distributed over the internet. More and more participants joined, with an expanding list of demands.

On June 28, on the eve of President Berdymukhamedov’s birthday, Turkmen citizens living in the United States held a demonstration in front of the UN Headquarters in New York City, and in front of the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, DC.

On July 16, Turkmen activists in New York organized an airplane flight with a banner containing a portrait of Berdymukhamedov, the Turkmen flag, and the inscription, “Dictator of Turkmenistan! SOS!”

On July 19, Turkmen citizens in Istanbul planned to hold a rally at the Turkmen consulate demanding the president’s resignation, criticizing corruption and the government’s hiding the truth about the coronavirus, etc. It was also supposed to demand the consulate exchange expired passports for new ones (as provided by the law on migration), and provide an opportunity for those with valid documents to travel home to support their loved ones. Hundreds of Turkmen citizens planned to participate in the action.

Because of the large number of participants, the Turkish authorities forbade the rally, claiming that there was a limitation because of the coronavirus. The Turkish police began arresting people even before the rally began. More than 80 Turkmens were detained on that day. It turned out that the consulate of Turkmenistan had filed a complaint with the Turkish authorities before the fact, providing the last names of five of the activists, who, allegedly, had disturbed the work of Turkmen diplomats and threatened them with violence.

Almost all those who were detained were released after 4-5 hours. Only Dursoltan Taganova, age 29, was held under guard. She is well-known as one of the leaders of the newly created Turkish branch of the opposition movement, “Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan.” Her name was included in the consul’s complaint. According to her lawyer, the consulate’s claims were not confirmed. However, Taganova’s documents are expired (as they are for many Turkmens in Istanbul), and she is threatened with deportation. At present she must pay a fine of 2,000 Turkish lira. The court will decide whether other conditions that fall under the migration legislation will apply to her.

While the police were dealing with the detained Turkmens, dozens of activists waited for their release in a park next to the consulate. Some of them held an unsanctioned demonstration in a modified format. They divided themselves into groups of 10-12 people, unfurled posters in various locations around the city, and demanded the resignation of President Berdymukhamedov. One of the groups organized a sit-in at the park.

In an attempt to put down the wave of protest actions, the Turkmenistan authorities put more pressure on activists and their relatives. Several Turkmen students who are studying in Turkey reported that representatives of the Turkmen secret police approached them at their dormitories demanding that they show them private correspondence on their phones, copied down their contacts, and looked at their photographs. If photos or contacts of activists seen in the protests were found, the students were threatened with deportation and subsequent imprisonment in Turkmenistan.

In Turkey, Russia, and other countries there have been cases of intimidation by telephone, accompanied by threats of physical violence.

There are also reports from Turkmenistan of pressure on activists and their relatives. There are unconfirmed reports of attempts in recent months to hold protests and to distribute leaflets criticizing the government’s policies.

A Turkmen activist who appeared on YouTube using the pseudonym “Vepa Chopan” stated that the authorities in in Turkmenistan were putting pressure on his parents, his wife, and children, demanding that he “shut up” and stop making presentations on the Internet.

On June 16 in Bezmeinsk Etrap of Ashgabat, another activist, Murad Dushemov, was detained. He had appeared on YouTube with a call for the unification of the opposition. Several days later he was placed under house arrest.

A friend in Turkmenistan of Khanum Rasulova (organizer of the June 26 protest action in Istanbul) was repeatedly summoned to the local administration of the Ministry of National Security where he was beaten. Officials demanded that he get her to refuse to participate in the protest movement. On June 24-25, he was held in the Ministry of National Security for a day and was again severely beaten and denied food and water. There have been reports of pressure on Rasulova’s relatives.

In July, three sisters, who are activists well-known in chats under the name of “Gulnar,” were intimidated in Bayram-Ali by the police, who threatened them with physical harm.

This is far from a complete list of information of this kind.

Turkmenistan has faced serious political, economic, and social problems. Contrary to official statements, negative trends are growing, which leads to a rapid increase in tension in the society. However, the existing political model, contrary to the Constitution and the requirements of international law, does not allow citizens to freely express their opinions and participate in a real way in the governance of the country.

In this situation, we call on the government of Turkmenistan to abandon the practice of suppressing dissent, to immediately end the persecution of activists, and to begin a dialogue with emerging civil society. This is the only way that the escalation of political confrontation can be stopped, and is an opportunity for a constructive solution to the accumulated problems.

Refusal to engage in dialogue, attempts to conceal problems, and an increase in repression could have dangerous consequences for Turkmenistan and other states in the region.

Tadzhigul Begmedova, Turkmen Helsinki Fund
Farid Tukhbatullin, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights
Vitaly Ponomarev, Human Rights Center, “Memorial” (Russia)
Krasimir Kanev, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Kate Watters, Crude Accountability (USA)
Svetlana Gannushkina, Committee “Civil Assistance” (Russia)
Vyacheslav Mamedov, Democratic Civic Union of Turkmenistan
Olga Zakharova, Freedom Files (Poland)
Valentin Gefter, Institute for Human Rights (Russia)
Ivar Dale, Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

This statement is also supported by Turkmen civic activists, whose names must be kept anonymous to ensure their safety.


Posted by admin on 2020/7/3 19:23:00 (319 reads)

Top USCIRF officials: Hold Turkmenistan accountable for its many violations of human rights.

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Posted by admin on 2020/5/6 3:30:00 (456 reads)

Storm Survivors Need Help, Not Censorship

Last week a hurricane tore through eastern Turkmenistan’s Lebap and Mary provinces. It was one of the country’s worst natural disasters in almost 10 years. But as residents struggle to bury their dead and repair homes, state and state-affiliated, privately-owned media have maintained a deafening silence.

Turkmenistan has no media freedoms – state media dominates, and the authorities block most independent and Western outlets. Authorities also try to intimidate people from reporting on unsettling or controversial news by jailing them on bogus charges, using proxies to assault them, and threatening their extended families.

Authorities have tried to prevent residents from sharing visuals documenting the hurricane’s destruction. Rights and Freedoms of Turkmen Citizens, a Prague-based group, spoke with a woman who security service held for 2 days, together with 29 others, accusing them of sending videos “abroad.” The same group also received reports that security services held another 19 women for the same reason in Turkmenabad, Lebap’s capital, releasing them May 3. The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights said police are watching for people in cars filming the damage on their cell phones.

Turkmen authorities’ censorship and efforts to prevent information on the harms sustained from becoming public makes it difficult to accurately assess the damage and casualties. Radio Liberty said it confirmed 30 deaths. Turkmen news spoke with a medical official who estimated 300 dead in Turkmenabad. It seems most buildings in the city have been damaged. Smaller towns have been badly damaged by the winds and flooding. Videos are circulating of roofless homes and severe damage inside.

For years, Lebap province has had chronic shortages of food, with staples sold at state-subsidized prices, and scattered reports indicate this problem has deteriorated. This could worsen food insecurity for people living in poverty.

Utilities were restored in parts of Turkmenabad and some, but not all, towns. Conscripts are clearing debris. The authorities might make construction materials available at discounted prices, and one source reported local authorities are rushing residents to repair their homes.

Some reports indicate the authorities may withhold civil servant’ wages for one month to pay for disaster relief.

Turkmenistan’s priorities should never include hunting down people filming news in their region, but particularly now in the wake of a disaster, the priority should be making effective and comprehensive efforts to bring aid to all who need it.

https://www.hrw.org/


Posted by admin on 2020/4/17 16:06:00 (489 reads)

Turkmenistan is one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world. Human rights violations are routine and severe, the right to freedom of expression is severely restricted and all media are controlled by the state. Torture and other ill-treatment is reported to be widespread, and prisoners are held in conditions amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, and in many cases subjected to enforced disappearances. Deaths in custody are commonplace and uninvestigated. Believers who follow unauthorized religions and critics of the regime risk being imprisoned on fabricated charges. Women face discrimination, and same-sex sexual relations between men remains a criminal offence.

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Posted by admin on 2019/9/10 15:52:00 (947 reads)

Statement by the Prove They Are Alive! Campaign on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

The Prove They Are Alive! Campaign

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