ASHGABAT (TCA) — The European Union and Turkmenistan held the tenth round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels on June 21.
The dialogue allowed for constructive and open exchanges on a wide range of issues, including the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief, movement, opinion and expression. The dialogue also addressed the freedom of the press, civil society development, women’s, child rights, minority rights, statelessness, the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, and cooperation in the multilateral format. Individual cases, including human rights defenders who have been detained or have disappeared, were also discussed.
Turkmenistan has taken several positive steps as regards human rights, the EU said. This includes the adoption of a comprehensive National Action Plan on Human Rights in 2016, and the nomination of its first Ombudsperson, in accordance with the provisions of the revised Constitution, who has the right, inter alia, to monitor the situation in all penitentiary facilities. Nevertheless, there is still a major gap between the legislative framework adopted by Turkmenistan in previous years and its practical implementation.
The EU addressed the issue of non-compliance by Turkmenistan as regards international human rights law in several areas. The ratification by Turkmenistan of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance would illustrate its commitment to enhancing human rights. The EU also reiterated the importance of Turkmenistan immediately acknowledging the problem of enforced disappearances, and its expectation that the authorities take effective action to eradicate this problem. The Turkmen authorities provided information on the situation of some such cases.
The EU stressed the benefits of Turkmenistan creating space for civil society, human rights defenders and the press to operate freely.
Visits in 2017 of foreign diplomats to Turkmenistan’s penitentiary facilities, as well as the readiness of Turkmenistan to facilitate other such visits in the future, are positive developments. The EU said it also expects the Turkmen authorities to show more openness to international scrutiny, including by receiving UN Special Procedures and implementing recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.
The Turkmenistan delegation was led by Mr Vepa Hajiyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ms Yazdursun Gurbannazarova, Ombudsperson for Human Rights, while the EU delegation was led by Mr Boris Iarochevich, Head of the Central Asia Division at the European External Action Service. The next round of the EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue is expected to take place in Ashgabat in 2019.