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Protection of fundamental rights in Central Asia: Update on developments in April-June 2014


Protection of fundamental rights in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and

Update on
developments in April-June 2014

  1. Developments
    in Kazakhstan

    1. General situation

      Overall the human rights situation in Kazakhstan remains troubling
      but rather stable
      . In some areas certain progress has been observed, while
      other recent developments signal deterioration in human rights protection. 


      On 29 May 2014, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed an agreement
      about the establishment of a Eurasian Economic Union (EEC)
      . There are
      concerns that this union may transform into a political instrument used by
      Russia to exercise pressure on its partners. From the economic point of view,
      there are concerns that sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with
      developments in Ukraine may also affect its EEC partners.


      On 3 July 2014, President Nazarbaev signed into law the new Criminal
      , which has been harshly
      by civil society since it contains provisions violating the
      rights of citizens to freedom of association, freedom of expression and other
      fundamental rights. The new Code on Administrative Offences, which was
      also signed into law in early July, provides for numerous other
      of rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful
      assembly and freedom of religion. On 27 June, the president approved the new
      Law on Trade Unions, which has been criticized by independent trade unions, the
      World Federation of Trade Unions, the International Conference of Trade Unions
      and the International Labour Organization. (See more information about these
      law initiatives below under 1.2). 


      In terms of progress, a National Torture Prevention Mechanism has
      been introduced
      under the Ombudsman, encompassing members from a number of human rights
      organizations. Since the beginning of 2013 a consultative-advisory
      called “The Dialogue Platform on the Human Dimension” has also been
      operating under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This body grants civil society
      representatives the opportunity to discuss human rights issues with high-ranking
      government officials. Out of 157 recommendations made by NGOs in this framework
      so far, 93 have either been approved by government bodies or taken up for
      consideration by Senate. However, recommendations made on the most sensitive human
      rights issues (such as political rights and freedom of expression) have been


      At the end of October 2014 Kazakhstan will have to account for its
      human rights policies to the UN Human Rights Council
      in the framework of
      the Universal Periodic Review, and in November to the UN Committee against

    2. Freedom of expression, assembly and association

      New legislation

      The new Criminal Code, which was signed into law by the president in
      early July,
      extends the grounds for prosecution for defamation and retains sanctions
      for defamation of up to three years in prison
      . As the previous Code, it also provides for
      special protection against defamation for high-ranking officials. Moreover, a
      new provision
      on perjury has been introduced into the Criminal Code and
      provides for punishment of up to ten years in prison. The wording of this
      provision creates the risk that an individual may be punished for the
      legitimate expression of opinions, views and beliefs.


      The new Criminal
      Code also introduces the concept of a “leader of a public association” as a
      particular category of offender a
      nd provides for
      stiffer penalties for individuals deemed to belong to this category than for
      other individuals for a number of crimes
      . This is a
      discriminatory approach that may result
      in the persecution of members of public associations


      A new provision on prohibiting “unlawful
      interference in the activities of state agencies by members of public
      associations” is also of great concern
      . The lack of clear and unambiguous
      definitions of the terms used in this provision leaves room for government
      officials to interpret legitimate requests by members of public associations as
      unlawful interference in their activities, which will undermine public
      oversight of authorities in the country.


      The newly adopted Code
      on Administrative Offenses retains
      excessive sanctions in the form of the suspension and closure of media outlets

      for violations of a technical nature


      A new provision of this Code on “violating
      the legislation on public associations” allows for suspending and even terminating the activities of public associations
      for minor violations of a technical nature, as well as for penalizing public
      associations for carrying out lawful activities that have not been spelled out
      in their statutes. This provision gives rise to particular
      with respect to religious communities.


      The new Law on Trade Unions, which was signed by the president in late
      June, puts into question the very existence of independent trade unions
      as it implies that all trade unions will be subordinated to branch, republican
      and other structures controlled by the government.


      According to information
      from Kazakhstan’s government
      , amendments to legislation concerning the
      activities of NGOs are currently being elaborated
      , and the experience of
      foreign countries will be taken into consideration in this process. There are
      concerns that this may result in the introduction of repressive amendments
      similar to those that have been proposed/adopted in other countries in the
      region, in particular in Russia.  


      Persecution of opposition media and journalists

      The trend of court closures of independent newspapers continues.
      Newspapers are being closed down on various questionable grounds, including
      minor technical mistakes in their publishing information. Currently there are
      only few independent newspapers left in the country.


  • On 18 July 2014, the
    Almaty City Court upheld the February decision of a district court to close
    down the Pravdivaya Gazeta, as a
    result of which the decision gained legal force. The court decision was issued
    in response to a request by the prosecutor to halt the newspaper’s operations
    and annul its registration on the grounds that it had received three warnings about
    violations of a technical nature in one year. These warnings were given to the
    newspaper, among others, because its print run had been wrongly indicated and
    publishing information had been printed unclearly in one of its issues.   


  • On 21 April 2014, the
    Medeusky District Court in Almaty ruled that the Assandi Times constitutes a “structural part” of the opposition Respublika newspaper, which was banned
    for alleged extremism in 2012, and therefore must stop its operations. On 12
    June the Almaty City Court upheld the decision unchanged. 


During the reporting period, there were a number of court proceedings
against journalists on defamation charges
, including criminal defamation


  • On 5
    March 2014, a criminal defamation case was opened against independent
    journalist Natalia Sadykova under par. 3 of Criminal Code article 129, which
    carries a penalty of up to 3 years in prison. The case was initiated on the
    basis of a complaint from a former parliamentary deputy who claimed that an
    article published at the Respublika
    online portal, which he accused Natalia of authoring under a pseudonym, was
    aimed at defaming him. On 17 March, the Aktobe City Court sanctioned Natalia’s
    arrest in her absence. Since 9 March Natalia and her family have been in
    Ukraine, from where she fears returning given the charges against her. Her
    lawyer has been denied
    to case materials.


    Internet censorship

    A number of opposition internet sites continue to be blocked without a court decision, including respublika-kaz.info,
    socialismkz.info and ablyazov.org. The website of the newspaper Uralskay Nedelya (uralskweek.kz) was
    temporarily blocked during the report period. Draft amendments to the Law on
    Communications, which have been put forward but yet have to be dealt with in
    the parliament,
    allowing for blocking social media sites without a court


  • On 13 June 2014, Kazakhstan
    International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) received a
    warning from the Ministry of Culture and Information concerning the
    re-publication of information from the respublika-kaz.info site on the
    organization’s site. The warning made reference to the December 2012 court
    decision that banned Respublika as
    extremist, along with 31 other media resources. The respublika-kaz.info site
    was, however, not explicitly mentioned on the list of banned resources at the


    Violations of the right to freedom of assembly

    Most civil society groups that request local authorities to sanction the
    organization of peaceful assemblies receive rejections, even when proposing to
    organize actions in areas specifically designated for this purpose. Similarly
    most peaceful assemblies that are held without official permission are
    dispersed by police
    and organizers and participants are brought to
    . Law enforcement authorities continue to apply the tactics of
    “preventive detentions” whereby civil society activists are detained before
    they have participated in protest actions and penalized as if they had taken
    part in them.   


  • On 29 May 2014, the
    day when the agreement on the Eurasian Economic Union was signed, civil society
    activist Ermek Narymbaev and his wife, blogger Nurali Aytelenov, journalist
    Andrey Tsukanov and civil society activist Rinat Kibraev were detained in
    Almaty and held for 3-12 hours. This was apparently done for the purpose of preventing
    them from participating in possible protests against the signing of the
    agreement. A number of civil society activists, as well as Azzatyk journalist Orken Bisenov, who was working on a story about
    a planned protest, were also detained in Astana
    on the eve of the signing of the agreement and sentenced to arrests for alleged
    administrative offenses. Other activists were given
    written warnings
    not to participate in unsanctioned protests.  


On several occasions during the reporting period, participants in protests
against unlawful evictions in Astana were detained
together with their children
. A number of journalists were detained by
police when covering peaceful assemblies, and one journalist was beaten. Journalists were also penalized as participants in
assemblies, although they were only present to report on them. In some cases,
the police approach against unsanctioned peaceful assemblies reached absurd
proportions, such as in the city of Kostanay where police detained
girls engaged as promoters
in a shopping centre because they were carrying
promotional posters.  


    1. Equality before the law, non-discrimination and access to justice of
      vulnerable groups

      An analysis of complaints received by KIBHR from citizens indicates that
      violations of the rights of detainees and defendants
      are common at
      basically all stages of the criminal process in Kazakhstan. During the
      reporting period, complaints concerned in particular violations of the right to
      have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of one’s defence and to
      communicate with counsel of one’s own choosing (ICCPR article 14.3.b); the
      right to be tried without undue delay (ICCPR article 14.3.c); and the right not
      to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt (ICCPR article


      Complaints from citizens also showed that the
      principle of equality of arms is not always respected during court
      proceedings and that judges ignore and fail to take into account statements
      made by defence witnesses.


      Moreover, sometimes petitions by citizens were
      not admitted and registered
      by law enforcement authorities, which
      undermines the right to have access to justice. Other problems include the low
      level of legal literacy among certain vulnerable groups of the population and
      the lack of opportunities for e.g. residents in remote and economically disadvantaged
      regions and migrants to obtain qualified legal assistance because they cannot
      afford to pay for such services and there is a lack of offer of free legal


      Violations of the right to a far trial and
      equality of arms are particularly common during politically motivated court
      . KIBHR observers found that legal provisions protecting the
      right to an effective defence, including the right to have access to a lawyer,
      are often not realized in practice in cases involving e.g. journalists and
      civil society activists. 


      In May 2013 a group of representatives of Kazakhstani human rights and
      civil society organizations compiled a
      of persons considered to be political prisoners in Kazakhstan,
      using criteria developed on the basis of those used by Amnesty International
      and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for this
      purpose. The list has subsequently been updated and expanded. Political, civic
      and religious activists have been included on it. Among those currently held on
      political grounds in the country are opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, human
      rights activists Roza Tulataeva (defending the rights or oil workers) and Vadim
      Kuramshin (defending the rights of prisoners) and lawyer Zinaida Mukhortova,
      who was again forcibly
      in a psychiatric clinic at the beginning of July 2014. (For
      background information on the cases of these individuals, see KIBHR-IPHR briefing


      Monitors observed media stories expressing negative and insulting
      attitudes towards members of sexual and religious minorities
      , as well as
      other examples of intolerance toward such groups.


  • On 16 May 2014,
    activists from the “AntiGay” movement organized a protest in Almaty, blocking
    the entrance to a night club oriented at members of sexual minorities. The
    activists claimed that they wanted to attract attention to the “threatening
    increase” in the number of people of alternative sexual orientation.  


    Many cases of discrimination in job

    were observed, in particular on the grounds of
    gender and age.


  • In response to a suit
    filed by the Almaty prosecutor, in early June 2014 a court deemed unlawful the
    publication on four websites of job ads featuring requirements regarding the sex
    and age of applicants. This decision was believed to be the result of
    campaigning against labour discrimination carried out by the NGO “Civil Defence,”
    which had monitored and brought attention to discriminatory job ads.   

  1. Developments

    1. General situation

      On 23 April 2014, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahkmon delivered his
      annual address to the parliament, laying out the political and economic course
      of the country. He also dealt with issues concerning the rule of law, referring
      in particular to a new program of judicial reform to be adopted for the
      next three years. While this program is currently in the process of being
      elaborated, civil society has not been granted access to it. (See more information
      below under 2.3.).


On 21 May 2014 law
enforcement authorities carried out an operation
to detain suspects in the city of Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan
Autonomous Oblast
(GBAO), in the course of which two
local residents were shot and killed. This incident provoked protests and riots
among the local population, who were dissatisfied with the actions of
authorities. (See more information below under 2.2.).


Following the
Khorog events, government officials accused
foreign states of trying to destabilize the situation in the country
and, in this context, researcher
Alexander Sodiqov was detained on accusations of spying
when he was
conducting research about conflict resolution in Khorog. His detention has been
widely criticized by representatives of the international community (See more
below under 2.2.).


In May 2014 the UN Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights conducted a pre-sessional review
of Tajikistan’s
implementation of the corresponding convention and adopted a
list of issues that the Tajikistani authorities are requested to respond to ahead of
the upcoming full review of the country. Issues concerning poverty, corruption,
forced evictions, migrants and disabled people were among those addressed by
the Committee, as reflected in the list of issues. Tajikistani NGOs prepared a
joint report for the review and were present in Geneva to brief the Committee.


A new round of the EU-Tajikistan Human Rights
took place in Dushanbe in June 2014. According to a press
release issued by the EU
, the EU expressed concern, among others, about
shortcomings in the 2013 presidential elections, reports about alleged
mistreatment of detainees and the blocking of websites and other restrictions on
freedom of expression. Nota Bene and other Tajikistani NGOs provided
information for the dialogue in advance, and recommendations
adopted at an EU-organized civil society
seminar in Dushanbe last year fed into the meeting.


    1. Freedom of expression, assembly and association

      Harassment of media and journalists and internet

      The situation concerning freedom of expression remains alarming in
      Tajikistan. In the past year (2013-2014) over 45 law suits have been brought
      against journalists and media
      , including defamation suits. One criminal
      case against a journalist was initiated. While some in the journalist and civil
      society community consider this case to have been motivated by the journalist’s
      professional activities, others have deemed it a regular criminal case. 


      The high-profile case of the “intelligentsia” against the weekly Asia Plus and its editor Olga Tutubalina especially agitated the journalist
      community and undermined openness and freedom of expression and media in the


  • In this case, the
    plaintiffs claimed
    that an article authored by Tutubalina, which was published in Asia Plus in June 2013, offended all
    representatives of the “intelligentsia” in the country. The suit was submitted with the support of five state-funded bodies – the unions
    of writers, artists, composers and architects, and the Academy of Sciences.
    Following a lengthy process, in February 2014, a Dushanbe district court ruled
    against Tutubalina and Asia Plus and
    ordered them to pay 30.000 Somoni (4.500 EUR) in compensation to the
    plaintiffs. Representatives of the international community, including the
    OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the
    expressed concern about the decision. The
    ruling was twice upheld on appeal. Currently the defen
    lawyers are preparing a third appeal. 


There have also been cases where private companies have threatened
, while law enforcement authorities have failed to take
appropriate measures to prevent or investigate such cases.


  • Isoev Orzy, a
    journalist at the radio station Imruz,
    filed a complaint with law enforcement authorities about threats he received by
    SMS and phone from representatives of the Q-net company after he made comments
    about this company during his radio show in May 2014. At the moment, no
    investigation into the matter is known to be under way.


A major problem that affects many residents of the country is the regular
blocking of websites
, such as news sites and social media sites implemented
by internet providers in response to informal orders from the government
communications service. In June 2014 providers again blocked several sites,
including YouTube, Gmail and other Google resources. In the past year, YouTube
has been
blocked four times in the country. 


The May 2014 events in Khorog

The law enforcement
operation carried in Khorog, the administrative center of GBAO, in late May
resulted in clashes between local
residents and law enforcement authorities
. Among others,
administrative buildings were put on fire. In total three people died and five
were injured during the clashes. An investigation into these events has been


The GBAO, which is located on the border to
Afghanistan and inhabited by Pamiri ethnic groups, is considered the
economically most disadvantaged region of Tajikistan. There is a high level
of distrust
toward the central authorities, which was reinforced following the
special military operation carried out in Khorog in the summer of 2012 when at
least 22 local residents were killed. A monitoring group from the Civic
Solidarity Platform
concluded that the authorities have failed to carry out an effective
investigation into this operation and reliable information about the number of
victims is still missing.  


In connection with
the May 2014 events, phone connections
in GBAO were blocked
, as a result of which residents were unable to
communicate both with people from other regions and others in their own region
for several days. Because of this journalists were also not able to obtain
information about the events in the region and relatives were not able to get
through to loved ones living there.


At a several day long protest meeting, local
residents in Khorog protested the actions of law enforcement authorities during
the operation conducted on 21 May and adopted
statement, demanding an objective
of it. Eventually a joint investigation commission composed
of representatives of the general prosecutor’s office and civil society was set
up. In late June, however, the civil society members of this commission
expressed concern about
difficulties faced in the implementation of the work of the commission, such as lack
of participation of representatives from the prosecutor’s office in it.


Following the May events in Khorog, government
officials repeatedly accused foreign states of trying to undermine stability
in the country
. For example, during a speech on 19 June 2014, Head of the
State Committee on National Security (SCNS) Saimumin Yatimov
claimed that foreign security services “cooperate with organized criminals” and
mobilize them for efforts directed against the security of the country. Prior
to this, Head of the Parliamentary Defence and Security Committee
Amirkul Azimov
questioned the purpose of visits by foreign diplomats to GBAO, suggesting that
such visits may reflect attempts to destabilize the situation there. Another
parliamentary deputy
proposed to regulate the visits of foreigners to border regions.


Moreover, in this context, Tajik researcher
Alexander Sodiqov, who is resident in Canada, was detained


  • Alexander Sodiqov, a
    PhD student at the University of Toronto and a researcher at the University of
    Exeter, was detained in Khorog on 16 June, as he was talking to a civil society
    representative about the May events in the city. The following day the SCNS
    published a
    statement, saying that he had been detained “while implementing a task for the
    security services of a foreign country.” For several days there was no
    information about his whereabouts, and only on 19 June it was announced that he
    had been transferred to a SCNS detention facility in Dushanbe and that an
    arrest order had been issued against him. For a week, he had no access to his
    family or a lawyer. Subsequently he was granted a lawyer and later two more
    lawyers started working on his case. The secrecy surrounding Sodiqov’s
    detention, the initial incommunicado nature of it, and the airing on TV of
    excerpts from the questioning of him violate his right to liberty and security,
    due process, as well as protection from torture and ill-treatment. This case
    also give rise to concerns in view of the right to freedom of expression and
    information, and it may seriously undermine international cooperation on
    research of the Central Eurasian region, as well as efforts to obtain
    first-hand information about developments in this region. 


Constitutional Court
ruling on the Law on Public Associations

Tajikistan’s Law on
Public Associations contains broadly worded
provisions regarding the grounds on which associations may be closed down by
, and in recent years, a number of NGOs have been closed down without
evidence of serious violations. During the reporting period, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling
on this issue.


  • On 24 June 2014, the Constitutional Court issued its ruling in response
    to a complaint filed by the Amparo Association of Young Lawyers, requesting the
    court to recognize the Law on Public Associations as inconsistent the
    Constitution. At the end of 2012 Amparo was closed down by court for violations
    of a technical nature, a decision that was upheld on appeal. In its ruling, the
    Constitutional Court recognized that the provisions of the Law on Public
    Associations that concern the closure of NGOs are not sufficiently clearly
    formulated and should be amended by the parliament. However, it did not agree
    with the petitioners that these provisions violate the Constitution. In light
    of recent developments (as described above), there are concerns that the
    elaboration of new draft legislation on NGOs may be used to limit NGO
    activities further rather than to strenghten safeguards against abuse.


    1. Equality before the law, non-discrimination and access to justice of
      vulnerable groups

      During his annual address to the parliament in April 2014, the president
      referred to the elaboration of a new program on judicial reform in the country.
      The previous program in this area was implemented in 2011-2013, after which its
      realization was assessed and recommendations made. Currently the Supreme Court
      is working on the new program. All efforts by civil society to obtain a copy of
      the draft program or information about it have failed.  


      A new draft Law on Lawyers is currently being considered by a
      working group in the parliament. It is planned that it will be presented at the
      parliament’s autumn session. A Concept of Legal Assistance, which is
      aimed at creating a new effective mechanism for the provision of free
      assistance, is currently being elaborated by the government.


In a speech held on 5
June 2014, Tajikistan’s Minister of Interior Ramazon Rahimzoda called for intensified measures in the fight against so-called crimes against
, referring in particular to practicing prostitution, which is an
administrative offense in the country. According to a communiqué issued by the
Ministry of Interior on 12 June, as a result of raids carried out among sex
workers on 6-10 June, over 500 individuals were detained and subsequently
photographed, fingerprinted and forced to undergo medical tests for sexually
transmitted diseases, including HIV. The communiqué also stated that three
individuals suspected of “homosexual behavior” were among those detained,
although homosexuality is not an offense in Tajikistan.


In a joint appeal to the minister of interior,
over 30 NGOs from Tajikistan and other countries stated that while the
authorities have an obligation to take effective measures to combat sexual
exploitation and trafficking in human beings, such initiatives should be implemented strictly in
accordance with national and international law and applicable human rights
. The letter noted that information obtained by local NGOs
indicated that detentions carried out in at least Dushanbe involved violations
of procedural rights, such as failure to promptly register detentions and bring
detainees before a judge and to grant detainees access to a lawyer from the
moment of their apprehension. Detained individuals were also targeted for
compulsory registration of personal information and compulsory medical tests on
the mere suspicion that they were involved in prostitution or other offenses
and they faced insults, beatings and blackmail attempts. Moreover, the appeal
pointed out that the detention of some individuals on the sole basis of their
sexual orientation is a serious violation of national and international
provisions prohibiting discrimination.


There was a quick
response to the NGO appeal. A group of “intellectuals” published an open letter
in the weekly Farazh, where they
expressed support for the government’s policies in this area and seriously
criticized NGOs. In an official response, the Ministry of Interior argued that
all initiatives taken in the fight against crimes of a “moral character” are
necessary and based on law, making reference to international norms. This
letter used a similar style of presentation and similar arguments as in the
open letter published by “intellectuals.”


  1. Developments in Turkmenistan

    1. General situation

      According to official information
      President Berdymuhammedov decreed in May 2014 that a commission should be set
      up to elaborate proposals for a reform of the Constitution aimed at
      bringing it into line with international standards. The president called for
      paying particular attention to improving the judicial protection of human
      rights and indicated that the reform should include the establishment of a
      human rights ombudsman’s office. This will be the second constitutional reform
      since Berdymuhammedov’s rise to power in 2007.  


      At its session in Geneva on 16-20 June 2014, the UN
      Child Rights Committee began its second review of Turkmenistan
      under the
      Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Committee adopted a so-called list
      of issues
      that the Turkmen authorities will be asked to respond to ahead of
      the final stage of the review, which is scheduled to take place in January
      2015. In a statement
      issued ahead of the review, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) and IPHR
      highlighted major concerns and urged the Committee to request the Turkmen
      government to account in detail for its policies in these areas. TIHR was also
      present in Geneva to brief committee members on issues covered in its report
      submitted for the review.


      The Turkmen authorities continue to use questionable
      methods to promote patriotism
      among citizens. For example, in May 2014,
      parents of school children were reportedly required to sign
      to bring up their children “to comply with the tradition, customs
      and culture of the Turkmen nation.” In a well-established practice, school
      children and students are regularly forced to participate in mass parades and
      other events organized by the authorities on the occasion of national holidays.


    2. Freedom of expression, assembly and association

      Freedom of expression developments

      Turkmenistan’s first ever Law on Mass Media, which
      entered into force in January 2013, prohibits censorship. However, censorship
      practices continue
      to be applied in relation to both traditional
      media and the internet, and the authorities continue to prevent access to
      information about developments in- and outside the country, which they fear
      could contribute to discontent and unrest among citizens. For example,
      information about natural disasters, outbreaks of epidemic diseases and
      accidents is deemed classified and media are not allowed to report about it.


According to information
obtained by TIHR
, on 6 June 2014, a Turkmen Air Force fighter crashed at
the outskirts of the city of Mary, hitting a residential house and killing a
trainee pilot and instructor. Soon after the incident, secret services
residents of the neighbourhood where the plane crashed to sign pledges not to
disclose any information about the incident.


The Russian cell phone operator MTS reported facing
from the authorities in launching a 3GB network and
offering more attractive services to customers, including with respect to
internet access. MTS, which was allowed to return to Turkmenistan in 2012, is the
only competitor to the state-run Altyn Asyr operator. Internet connections in
the country are generally slow and expensive.


In April 2014, the Turkmen president signed a decree
according to which some 100.000 net books will be given to first
graders at the start of the new school year. This practice was introduced in
2011 to promote computer literacy and use among students. However, the
computers have often only been put to limited use,
e.g. because teachers do not allow their students to use the computers out of
fear that they will be held responsible in case the computers break. Parents
have been required to buy computer equipment and help co-finance
storage places for computers. There is no internet access in most schools.


  • As reported by TIHR,
    in April 2014, Klychmurad Yarmamedov, a renowned sculptor whose art works are
    known beyond Turkmenistan, was expelled
    from the Turkmen Academy of Arts after publicly calling for efforts to improve
    the education level of students at this institution and the quality of art in
    the country. His statements were apparently perceived as criticism of
    government policies.


  • On 2 June 2014
    Amnesty International (AI) published an appeal,
    urging the Turkmen authorities to grant a retrial to Mansur Mingelov, an
    unfairly imprisoned human rights activist who began a hunger strike on 19 May
    to protest his sentence. Mingelov was arrested in 2012 and convicted to 22
    years in prison for alleged drug and child pornography offences after
    documenting evidence of police torture against members of the Baloch ethnic
    minority. Being in a critical condition, he reportedly ended
    his hunger strike on 8 June after a number of Turkmen officials visited him in
    the Seidi labour camp where he is held and the treatment of him there improved.
    The same day as the AI appeal was published, the president made a statement, emphasizing
    the necessity of upholding the rule of law and demanding a careful
    consideration of each criminal case and a thorough examination of complaints
    from citizens.


  • TIHR and individuals
    associated with this organization have repeatedly faced harassment. On 10 April
    2014, Turkmen authorities prevented Ruslan Tuhkbatullin from flying from
    Turkmenistan to Turkey to meet his brother, TIHR head Farid Tuhkbatullin. Ruslan
    was informed that he and his 9-year-old son have been black-listed from
    travelling abroad. He was told that he could ask the the Migration Service for
    an explanation. However, although he did, he has not received any reply to
    date. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International published a statement
    on 20 May, denouncing the arbitrary restriction of freedom of movement in this
    case, saying that authorities were obviously trying to retaliate against Farid
    Tuhkbatullin for his human rights work.


Freedom of association and assembly

The environment for NGOs remains repressive in
Turkmenistan. On 3 May 2014, the president signed a new comprehensive Law on
Public Associations
that replaced a previous law from 2003. The law grants
citizens the right to establish and join public associations of their own
choice and allows foreign organisations to establish branches in Turkmenistan.
It also prohibits state interference in the activities of associations.
However, basic provisions of the law remain problematic, such as a requirement
of compulsory registration of associations, strict registration rules and
provisions granting authorities wide powers to monitor and oversee the
activities of associations. There are concerns that the law will not result in
any improvements in practice, similarly to the new Media Law adopted in 2013.
Up to now, no new NGO is known to have been registered since the entry into
force of the new law.


The overhanging
threat of reprisals effetively discourages public protests in Turkmenistan.
However, spontaneous
small-scale protests have
occasionally taken place in the last few years in response to arbitrary actions
of authorities. TIHR has reported five such incidents since 2011. These
incidents have not been covered in national media and in most cases authorities
have conceded at least partly to the requests of protesters, apparently for the
purpose of preventing wider protests.


  • On 23 June 2014,
    residents of an Ashgabat neighbourhood refused
    to comply
    with the orders of visiting local officials, who demanded that
    they dismantle their air conditioning units because these allegedly spoil the
    exterior of apartment buildings. Upset about this order made at a time of hot
    outside temperatures, these residents went out into the streets and started
    chasing the officials away, after which police, military and security service
    officers were called to the place. Finally the residents were assured that the air conditioning units would not be
    dismantled. For several days security service officers tried to track down the
    “instigators” of the protests.


    1. Equality before the law, non-discrimination and access to justice of
      vulnerable groups

As part of the Turkmenization policies that were
heavily promoted by late President Niyazov and strongly criticized by the
international community, schools of national minorities were closed and
instruction in
Russian cut back. While instruction in Russian has continued in
selected classes in larger cities, TIHR has received reports that such
instruction is now
being further reduced.
For example, in the city of Dashoguz, only two schools will
first graders in classes with Russian as the language of instruction as of the
next school year, compared to four schools previously. A local education
official justified this decision by claiming that the number of children from
families holding Russian citizenship or Russian migrant status has decreased,
which can be seen in connection with the pressure long faced by dual
Turkmen-Russian citizens to either give up their Russian citizenship or leave
the country.


In mid-2008 new
biometric passports for travel abroad were introduced in Turkmenistan with a
transition period of five years. Dual citizens were required to renounce their
second citizenship to obtain new passports. Following a series of negotiations,
Turkmenistan and Russia agreed in May 2013 that new passports will be issued to
dual Turkmen-Russian nationals who obtained their Russian citizenship before June
2003. However, as reported
, in April 2014, the Turkmen State Migration office suspended the issuance of biometric
passports also to this category of dual citizens
without providing any
further explanations. This sudden change of policy affected, among others, dual
citizens resident in Russia who had come to Turkmenistan to obtain new
passports and now found themselves stuck there for a long time. It also
contributed to reinforcing corruption, with officials accepting bribes to
process applications informally.


Stateless persons
have experienced
in leaving the country since the authorities stopped issuing
passports to them in October 2013, referring to a law in the process of being
adopted concerning the granting of citizenship to this category of residents.
This law entered into force only in late June 2014.


TIHR reported about the continued
of arbitrary evictions in connection with the demolition of
residential buildings in Ashgabat to make room for government construction
projects, such as office buildings, hotels and monuments. Residents are usually
requested to leave their homes at short
and many are not provided with adequate compensation, e.g. they are
not provided with alternative accommodation that corresponds in space to their
previous accommodation; they receive compensation that is below the real value
of their property; or they are promised alternative accommodation only in
two-three years’ time. Over 300 families were accommodated in makeshift
on the outskirts of Ashgabat following the destruction of their homes.
There are fears that the construction of sport facilities for the Asiada
competition scheduled for 2017 may result in further evictions.


After TIHR website published articles about the
problem of evictions, the minister of construction and architecture was
replaced as part of a governmental
in April 2014. However, this does not appear to have helped stop
the practice of arbitrary evictions.



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