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Urgent Interventions

Turkmenistan: Harassment of several defenders


New information
TKM 001 / 0603 / OBS 027.1
Harassment / Ill-treatment

June 14, 2005

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkmenistan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the NGO Memorial that on the eve of the visit to Turkmenistan of Mr. Rolf Ekeus, High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), several NGO activists received an order from officers of the Turkmen National Security Ministry (MNB) to stay home on the day of the visit and to refrain from seeking to meet him or persons accompanying him.

According to the information received, on May 31, 2005, Mr. Ekeus was received by the President of Turkmenistan. On that day, apartments of several human rights activists were blocked by the police and plain-clothes MNB officers. Law enforcers « recommended » that they stay at home. The blockade of flats continued until the second half of the day when the OSCE High Commissioner departed for the city of Turkmenbashi.

As an example, on that day, Mrs. Nathalia Shabunts, director of the human rights NGO Civic Dignity, was prevented from leaving her apartment and consequently from participating in an international seminar. Security service officers allegedly received an order « to guard her apartment ». The monitoring of her apartment continued until 8 p.m.

The Observatory recalls that such acts are flagrant violations of article 5(c) of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, which states that “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations.”

Background information:

The Observatory recalls that on May 28, 2003, Mrs. Shabunts' building had stayed under the surveillance of three security services vehicles for the entire day, following a meeting of Civil Dignity with representatives from OSCE in Achkhabad on May 27, 2003. Around 7 p.m., when she was leaving her home to attend a dinner organised by the OSCE, four security services agents attempted to arrest her. Mrs. Shabunts managed to escape (see Annual Report of the Observatory 2003).

On August 26, 2004, members of Special Services did not allow Mrs. Nathalia Shabunts to board a plane for northern Turkmenistan, where she was to participate in a seminar organised by the US organisation Consortium International. No explanation was provided. The following day, Mrs. Shabunts filed a complaint with the Ministry of National Security and requested that her name be taken off a “black list”, a list of persons who are not allowed to travel freely inside of Turkmenistan or abroad. In September 2004, reacting to international pressure, the authorities decided to allow Mrs. Shabunts to travel abroad but maintained restrictions concerning travel inside Turkmenistan (see Annual Report of the Observatory 2004).

Since 2001, Civil Dignity has been under surveillance by the secret services, which have on numerous occasions prevented or disrupted conferences organised by Mrs. Shabunts.

Action requested:
Please write to the authorities of Turkmenistan urging them to:
i. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mrs. Nathalia Shabunts and all Turkmen human rights defenders and put an end to all acts of harassment against them;

ii. conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Humans Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and article 5(c) mentioned above;

iii. more generally, conform with the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and with all other international human rights instruments binding Turkmenistan.

  • Saparmurad Ataevich NIYAZOV, President, Office of the President, Zdaniye Pravitel’stra, Ashkabab, Turkmenistan, Fax: + 99 312 35 51 12 / 51 17 55 / 51 14 30

  • Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, Rashit Ovezgeldiyevich MEREDOV, Turkmenistan; 744000 g. Ashgabat; pr. Magtymguly, 83; Ministerstvo inostrannykh del Turkmenistana; Ministru MEREDOVU R.; TURKMENISTAN, Fax: + 993 12 35 42 41 / 39 28 50, e-mail:

Please also write to diplomatic representations of the Republic of Turkmenistan in your respective countries.

Paris - Geneva, June 14, 2005

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line: E-mail:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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