Turkmenistan: Human Rights Groups Highlight Urgent Issues For EU Engagement – OpEd


Ahead of the upcoming EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) have prepared a briefing paper highlighting urgent concerns and providing recommendations for the EU’s engagement with Turkmenistan. The two organisations urge the EU to emphasise that broadening its value-based partnership with Turkmenistan requires genuine human rights progress.

The dialogue is scheduled to take place in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, at the beginning of next week. The EU delegation for the dialogue will include representatives from the European External Action Service, as well as Olof Skoog, the recently appointed EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

The IPHR-TIHR briefing paper documents the following key issues:

  • Severe restrictions on free speech and pervasive internet censorship
  • Ongoing persecution of activists, journalists, and bloggers, including through transnational repression
  • Highly restricted space for civil society and lack of access for international monitors
  • Persistent concerns regarding access to justice, detention conditions, and the treatment of detainees
  • Prevalence of gender-based stereotypes, discrimination and violence

IPHR and TIHR urge the EU to prioritise these issues during the dialogue, reminding the Turkmenistani government of its obligations to implement recommendations received during recent international reviews of its human rights record. These include several reviews conducted by UN treaty bodies to assess Turkmenistan’s compliance with international human rights treaties, and the Universal Periodic Review held under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council.

The EU should also stress that the ratification of the pending EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) requires real progress regarding the human rights benchmarks set out by the European Parliament in its May 2019 resolution.

Finally, IPHR and TIHR urge the EU to encourage the Turkmenistani government to demonstrate goodwill by taking concrete steps to reverse repressive policies, such as:

  • Granting access to blocked news and social media sites
  • Releasing imprisoned activists and journalists
  • Repealing travel bans on outspoken individuals and their families
  • Allowing citizens to renew passports at Turkmenistani consulates abroad
  • Facilitating visits from UN special procedures who have requested to visit the country
  • Granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to monitor detention facilities
  • Repealing arbitrary restrictions on women’s right to drive

These steps would help demonstrate Turkmenistan’s commitment to improving its human rights record, in the lead-up to the high-level EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting, which is planned to be held in Turkmenistan later this year.


International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is an independent, non-governmental organization founded in 2008. Based in Brussels, IPHR works closely together with civil society groups from different countries to raise human rights concerns at the international level and promote respect for the rights of vulnerable communities.

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