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The Dialogue allowed for an open and constructive debate on issues such as freedom of opinion and expression online and offline; freedom of the media; creating an enabling environment for civil society; the rights of women, children and minorities; the prevention of torture and ill-treatment; freedom of religion or belief; freedom of movement; and cooperation in multilateral fora.
While Turkmenistan has made efforts to bring its legislative framework in line with international standards, effective implementation of the laws remains necessary to achieve a concrete improvement of the human rights situation.
To improve its reporting to the UN human rights mechanisms, Turkmenistan intends to adopt a roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations accepted during its 3rd Universal Periodic Review, to update the National Action Plan on Human Rights, and to develop indicators to measure progress. Turkmenistan has also stated its readiness to seek the advice of a UN expert on the amendments to the law on peaceful assembly in order to align it with international human rights law standards. Furthermore, it will continue to cooperate with the International Labour Organisation to eradicate forced labour, consider allowing international NGOs to visit the country, and organise a national roundtable on the right of citizens to travel abroad.
The involvement by the Turkmen authorities of some civil society organisations in consultations with the Inter-agency Commission for Coordination of Human Rights Issues is an important step towards establishing an inclusive national platform on human rights. The EU recalled the importance of protecting representatives of civil society organisations and human rights defenders from violence, harassment and reprisals. Independent media sources both online and offline must be free from censorship.
Additional visits of foreign diplomats to penitentiary facilities in Turkmenistan, building on those organised in the last years, would be a welcomed step. In this regard Turkmenistan should re-engage with the International Committee of the Red Cross, granting it full, unhindered access to places of detention.
The EU stressed the importance of ratification by Turkmenistan of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, as an important step towards eradication of these practices. While Turkmenistan is preparing for the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, invitations to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, have not yet been extended. The EU recalled the importance of the full independence of the Ombudsperson's office and of her engagement with the Turkmen authorities on all human rights issues, including the phenomenon of enforced disappearances.
During the Dialogue individual cases were also raised, including those of human rights defenders who have been persecuted or have disappeared.
Ahead of the Human Rights Dialogue the EU met representatives of the civil society and independent journalists, to learn about their assessment of the overall human rights situation in the country.
The Turkmen delegation was led by Mr Vepa Hajiyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, while the EU delegation was led by Mr Boris Iarochevitch, Head of the Central Asia Division of the European External Action Service. It was agreed to hold the next EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels in 2020.