The benefits of visas to Turkey, the firm of a friend of the president and female drivers without a license. Turkmenistan answered questions from UN experts

On March 2, the official delegation of Turkmenistan headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Khadzhiev answered questions from the UN Human Rights Committee following the consideration of the fourth periodic report on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

On February 27, alternative reports on the human rights situation in Turkmenistan were presented by human rights activists. On their basis, the experts of the Committee prepared their questions for the official delegation.

Full video and text reports are available on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

As before, the Turkmen side denied all the remarks and substantiated their inconsistency by the existence of certain laws in Turkmenistan. For example, women's rights are not violated in Turkmenistan, since gender discrimination is not permitted by law. There are no voiced facts of corruption in Turkmenistan either, because there is an impartial anti-corruption commission and so on.

Note that the discussion is not in a free dialogue format or unmoderated debate. UN experts immediately ask a number of questions on various topics, after which the representatives of the Turkmen delegation leave for a 15-minute discussion and then give answers. As a rule, most of the answers are citations of laws or general discussions on the topic. This format gives the Turkmen side the opportunity to avoid answering some questions, simply ignoring them. For example, the question of the possibility of abolishing the article of the Criminal Code “sodomy” was ignored even after repeated attempts by the experts to clarify it.

Some of the speakers made very long pauses between sentences and even words to buy time. Nevertheless, the experts managed to get answers to a number of acute and important questions.

HT briefly compiled the theses voiced by the experts of the UN Committee and the questions asked, as well as the answers of the Turkmen delegation to them.

• Question: Turkmenistan uses courts and politically motivated sentences to fight opposition activists. In places of detention, activists, representatives of religious organizations and human rights activists are subjected to torture and inhuman treatment.

Answer: Allegations of corrupt trials of political opponents have no basis. The Criminal Code was amended to prohibit torture. Allegations of repression or persecution of journalists are unfounded. Intentional harassment of an innocent person and wrongful detentions are punishable.

The Ministry of Defense did not force Jehovah's Witnesses to perform military service. They were offered alternatives. For example, "positions in the migration service were offered."

• The committee found Turkmenistan responsible for the death in prison of activist Ogulsapar Muradova. However, the Turkmen side did not comply with the previous recommendations and did not take measures in this regard.

We do not admit the guilt of the state in the death of Mrs. Muradova. She committed suicide in prison. No charges were brought against her. An independent state commission investigated the incident. As a result, a number of prominent Western states have said that her death "does not arouse suspicion".

• Friends and relatives of members of the Turkmen government receive government contracts. What measures have been taken to fight corruption?

Turkmenistan has acceded to the Convention on Corruption. In 2022, the President created the Anti-Corruption Commission. The facts of money laundering and terrorist financing are investigated as part of the financial monitoring program. Explanatory work on the fight against corruption was carried out among the population.

The company, which belonged to a friend of the President, is no longer officially registered.

• Turkmenistan has not implemented any of the 26 recommendations that were made in 2017 (the year the previous periodic review of the situation in the field of human rights was carried out). For five years, Turkmenistan has not allowed any of the 15 human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, to visit the country. Only one cultural rights expert received permission.

In Turkmenistan, there were no restrictions on the visits of special rapporteurs, but they had to comply with the "capacity of the country". Turkmenistan held online meetings with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in July 2020. The government considered allowing the visit, but it had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

• The Ombudsman turned out to be the only person who deals with human rights in the country. However, she does not meet in person with people who file complaints. The office of the Ombudsman does not respond to written requests.

Efforts are being made to bring the Ombudsman's office in line with the Paris Principles. The government is also considering setting up regional ombudsman offices. In 2022, funding for the activities of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights was doubled. Access to the ombudsman was not a problem. The Ombudsman's website , available in English, Turkmen and Russian, was a way to access UN documents .

• The Ombudsman visited a number of prisons, but not in Ovadan Depe. Why?

The Ombudsman has the right to visit any prison or detention center without restrictions. The pandemic has made visits difficult.

• Reports of enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention are alarming. The Committee has received reports of over 100 enforced disappearances of political and religious leaders. It is unknown if these people are still alive. How will this problem be solved? Why were requests to visit the Committee on Enforced Disappearances working group in 2017 denied?

The prisoners in question are alive and on record, and it would be inappropriate to call them missing.

• Why are independent NGOs not allowed to operate in Turkmenistan?

We disagree with the fact that there are no independent non-governmental organizations in the country. NGOs are different: sports, scientific, creative, etc. The state closely cooperates with public organizations in the preparation and implementation of national plans and projects in the field of human rights. We are ready to consider applications for registration of public organizations in accordance with the law.

• In the law on combating extremism, this definition is interpreted too vaguely. The legislation has been used to restrict the travel of political activists. How many people were banned from traveling under this law? How many prisoners have been convicted of Islamic extremism since 2017, and under what laws? Will those imprisoned contrary to the provisions of the Civil Rights Covenant be released? Citizens of the country were subjected to arbitrary detentions for criticizing the government. What compensation will they receive?

Work was carried out on legislation on extremism and non-discrimination. The prisoners from the Gülen movement were found guilty under the Criminal Code. An independent and impartial investigation was carried out. There are no grounds for compensation.

• Turkmenistan has acceded to the Convention against Corruption, but no progress has been made in this area. Corruption was found in every aspect of life, including in labor camps where workers had to pay to see their family members. What measures have been taken to fight corruption?

There was no increase in corruption in penitentiary institutions.

• Will the article of the Criminal Code on sodomy be repealed? Are police officers held accountable for targeted persecution of members of sexual minorities?

(No answer)

• Turkmenistan denies the presence of COVID-19 on its territory despite a surge in the incidence of respiratory diseases during the pandemic. How was the information campaign about the coronavirus carried out? Are there statistics on deaths from COVID -19?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all necessary protection measures for citizens and foreigners staying in the country have been implemented. The restrictions were in line with UN standards. Information is freely available and the Ministry of Health has developed preventive recommendations in accordance with WHO recommendations. 99% of citizens received one dose of vaccines against COVID-19, and 97% received the second.

• How is gender equality ensured in the country? Women were forbidden to drive cars, although there was no legal basis for the ban. During the COVID -19 pandemic, 12% of women aged 15 to 59 were victims of physical or sexual violence by a partner or spouse. How did the state deal with these forms of violence?

The recently adopted Criminal Code introduces penalties for violating citizens' freedoms and gender equality. Also, the Criminal Code was amended to provide punishment for forced abortion and sexual harassment at work.

According to the traffic police, the number of female drivers who do not have a driver's license has increased. The government has taken action to stop such drivers . All the women who were stopped to check the status of their documents were subsequently released.

• Turkmenistan's recent visa restrictions have made life difficult for those wishing to migrate to Turkey.

The visa regime with Turkey does not restrict movement, but, on the contrary, increases the security of Turkmen citizens .

The government now knows where and under what conditions Turkmen citizens work. This policy is subject to change.

• Is the United Nations website and, in particular, the webcast of the current meeting accessible to the people of Turkmenistan?

The Internet broadcast was available to all citizens of the country.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan