Latest Update: 31 March 2013
There have been some encouraging developments during the period January to March, but also developments that give rise to concern. Overall, the pace of reform in Turkmenistan remains slow and more substantive progress needs to be made.
President Berdimuhamedov approved on 3 January the mass media law passed by Turkmenistan’s parliament on 22 December 2012. The new law contains a number of positive features which should move Turkmenistan closer to fulfilling its international commitments. We will monitor its impact on the media environment in Turkmenistan. In doing so, we will take into account assessments by international NGOs such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House currently ranks Turkmenistan 196 out of 197 countries in its latest Freedom of the Press index; Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkmenistan 177 out of the 179 countries it covers.
Two human rights activists, Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapadurdy Hajiev, were released on 16 February. They were jailed in 2006 ostensibly as a result of firearms-related charges. Human rights defenders believe however that their conviction had more to do with their involvement in the production of a documentary about Turkmenistan for French television. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined separately that their arrest and detention violated international law. Both were the subject of regular lobbying by the EU.
Turkmenistan’s Interdepartmental Commission on Human Rights has started work on a National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP). This work is supported by the EU, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) as part of a broader initiative to increase understanding in Turkmenistan about international human rights standards and mechanisms. The plan could, as the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative noted in March, help Turkmenistan’s engagement on the outcome of its second Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in April.
There were also negative developments during the first quarter of 2013. We have flagged in recent updates reports of undue pressure against certain religious communities in Turkmenistan. We have since seen further credible reports that Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to face unwarranted pressure from local authorities. We will continue to monitor this and when appropriate will raise concerns both bilaterally and with EU partners, including during the next round of the EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights dialogue due in May.