On 17 June 2015, the European Union and Turkmenistan held the seventh round of their Human Rights Dialogue in Ashgabat.
The Turkmen delegation was led by Mr Vepa Hajiyev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was accompanied by senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and the National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, and the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on the protection of human rights. The EU delegation was led by Toivo Klaar, Head of Central Asia Division in the European External Action Service.
The dialogue allowed for the discussion of a range of issues, including constitutional reform, conditions in detention, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. The EU welcomed Turkmenistan's plan to create an Ombudsman institution, in the context of a broader constitutional reform process, and acknowledged its cooperation with the EU Rule of Law Platform in this regard. The EU took positive note of the release of a number of religious detainees in 2014, as well as the most recent presidential pardon in May 2015, and encouraged Turkmenistan to use future pardons to release imprisoned political activists, human rights defenders, and members of peaceful religious groups.
The EU reiterated its serious concerns about the human rights situation, including the reported use of torture, and urged the Turkmenistan government to release information on the status and location of prisoners who have disappeared in detention. The EU encouraged Turkmenistan to facilitate prison visits by international monitors and to cooperate with UN special procedures. The EU also urged Turkmenistan to ease restrictions on Internet access and to cease blocking websites, and sought clarification regarding reports of arbitrary evictions and renewed reports of the forcible dismantling of satellite dishes. Excessive restrictions on civil society, and interference with the right to freedom of religion or belief were also addressed as matters of concern for the EU.
The EU reiterated its readiness to support credible reforms that are undertaken by the Turkmenistan government.
The next human rights dialogue between the EU and Turkmenistan will take place in Brussels in 2016.
EU-Turkmenistan relations: http://eeas.europa.eu/turkmenistan/index_en.htm
The EU and human rights: http://www.eeas.europa.eu/human_rights/index_en.htm