Housing, Court Rulings – Main Targets of Public Complaint, Turkmen Ombudswoman’s Report Shows

Turkmenistan’s state-owned media have published the second annual report by the ombudswoman, Yazdursun Gurbannazarova, this time for 2018. Although the report repeats at length the laws and other legal acts adopted by Turkmenistan, and lists participation in various meetings, seminars, and fact-finding trips, it nevertheless contains some significant facts and figures; for example:

  • In 2018, 985 appeals to the ombudswoman’s office were registered (of which 479 were in writing). The most complaints came from residents of Ashgabat, while the main topics of concern were housing and disagreements with court verdicts. The main object of complaint for residents of Lebap and Dashoguz was the migration service; 
  • Almost 15% of appeals were sent twice or more. A female resident of Balkan region appealed six times over the illegal actions of the head of an institution, while a male resident of the region appealed five times over court rulings on a housing issue. A resident of Ashgabat appealed five times over the unjustified actions of law-enforcement officers; 
  • The ombudswoman emphasizes that, according to the law, she has the right to visit places of detention and inspect them without hindrance or giving notice. In 2018, Yazdursun Gurbannazarova visited two institutions: a colony for juveniles (city of Bayramali) and the women’s colony in Dashoguz region. There are 81 prisoners and a secondary school in the first colony. The majority of the inmates are residents of Lebap region (37%) and Mary region (22%). “In several instances the juveniles did not understand the criminal nature of their actions. In this regard it is essential to strengthen preventive work to inform juveniles about the types of liability enshrined in legislation”, the report says; 
  • There are 2,364 prisoners serving sentences in the women’s institution. One is a juvenile and 20 have disabilities. There were no children kept at the colony’s kindergarten at the time of the inspection. The women work a three-shift system in a sewing workshop, designed with 350 workplaces, in a shoemaking workshop with 250 places, and also in a hand-sewing workshop. There were no complaints directly from the women, but their relatives submitted five appeals in all, which concerned disagreements with investigations and court verdicts and one appeal for a pardon;
  • The ombudswoman’s office received 78 written and 72 oral appeals concerning civil and political rights. The report does not say exactly what the appeals were about. Of them, just three written appeals were upheld.

The section of the report “Requests and Recommendations of the Ombudswoman” cites specific examples of residents’ complaints: against the country’s central bank for red tape in issuing Visa cards; and against the migration service for delays in issuing passports. One of the district courts in Ashgabat didn’t bother to establish fully the identity of a woman whom they sentenced initially (in 2009) to one year’s detention for prostitution, then fined for the same activity in 2017. The woman had in fact given a false name and the person whose name she gave had to pay the fine. In the end, the administrative case was closed against the person the woman claimed to be.

In conclusion, the ombudswoman suggests improving the level of knowledge and awareness of the population about defending their rights, having explored the possibility of introducing a single state program on the issue.

For its part, turkmen.news calls on the ombudswoman to visit other correctional facilities in Turkmenistan, in particular strict regime colony LB-K/11 and ordinary regime LB-K/12, pre-trial detention facility LB-D/9 (also known as Abdy-Shukur prison), special regime colony AH-K/3, and prison AH-T/2 (Ovadan-Depe). According to turkmen.news’ information, the conditions of detention, food, and medical treatment in all these institutions are far from what’s required. Corruption is rampant there, while employees often exceed their authority, illegally making the detention regime more severe for individual inmates, especially ethnic minorities.

We will soon continue our series of publications on Turkmen prisons, in fact looking at pre-trial detention facility LB-D/9, and AH-T/2 prison.

Unfortunately, the report does not say a word about political prisoners who disappeared in the prison system back in the time of Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmurat Niyazov. This is the information that people are waiting for in many countries around the world. And who is best placed to show resolve and disclose the whole truth in line with their legal powers if not Turkmenistan’s Commissioner for Human Rights?