“In depth”: pertaining to work, goals and opportunities for Turkmen human rights activists

On 7 May 2018 at a hearing of the UN Human Rights Council Turkmenistan officials reported on the human rights situation in Turkmenistan. Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hadjiyev denied most accusations of violations. Among other things the head of the Turkmen delegation said that there is no Internet censorship in Turkmenistan and that access to information websites is not restricted. It should be emphasized that this is not the first time Mr Hadjiyev has spoken on this issue. At the same time, the only Internet provider in the country, Turkmentelecom, continues to block social networks and websites publishing criticism of the Turkmen authorities.

Why can't the UN or the OSCE forcibly urge Turkmenistan to respect human rights instead of issuing new recommendations which are ignored by the Turkmen authorities? What does the work of a human rights activist involve, and how does it differ from opposition activities? What leverage do international organizations and human rights defenders have on the authorities?

Correspondent of Chronicles of Turkmenistan Aisha Berdyeva raised the above and other issues in an interview with Chairperson of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, Farid Tukhbatullin.

Below is the interview summary:

Human rights and opposition activities is not the same thing, but there are things in common in some issues.

There is virtually no direct leverage on the authorities by the UN or the OSCE. Voluntary membership of these organizations does not imply voluntary compliance with rules and regulations. The leverage in this situation might be the risk of spoiling the image on the international arena, which in some cases might result in some organizations or business entities refusing to cooperate.

Adoption of certain laws following recommendations of the UN Committees does not mean that these laws will be abided by.

The competence level of officials in Turkmenistan is quite low. At the same time it should be stressed that the professional level of the Foreign Ministry staff and other agencies representing the country at the UN and OSCE sessions while reviewing human rights violations is gradually improving. However, their job involves concealing facts and seeking justifications of actions by the authorities rather than improving the situation.

In today's situation any change of regime without bloodshed following the Armenia scenario is unlikely.

Under the conditions of the economic crisis loans need to be secured in international finance institutions, but the authorities have to make concessions, including respect for human rights.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan