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Turkmenistan: Oppression

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent representations his Department has made to the Turkmenistan authorities on freeing people imprisoned for acts of peaceful political dissent; (171931)

(2) what recent representations his Department has made to the Turkmenistan authorities on allowing independent international monitors free access to places of detention and detainees;

(3) what recent representations his Department has made to the Turkmenistan Government on that country's use of foreign travel restrictions.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks) raised human rights concerns during his visit to Turkmenistan in September. Our embassy in Ashgabat will continue to lobby the Turkmen Government with our EU partners in support of individual cases. Mufti Ibadullah and Geldy Kyarisov were among a number of prisoners of concern who were released this year, after UK and EU lobbying. Maral Yklimova too was allowed to leave the country.

An ad hoc meeting on human rights took place in the margins of the EU's Joint Committee meeting with the Turkmen Government in Ashgabat in September 2007. Issues raised included the importance of allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners, further relaxing restrictions on foreign travel and individual prisoners of concern. Human rights were also raised during President Berdimuhamedov's visit to Brussels in November when he met Mr. Barroso, Mr. Solana and the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Energy Commissioners.

We welcome the action the Turkmen Government has taken so far to begin to relax travel restrictions and to encourage Turkmens to travel and study abroad, but there remains a long way to go. We hope that the recent willingness by the Turkmen Government to engage with the EU, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe under President Berdimuhamedov will lead to positive, substantive progress on human rights and democratic reform. We will continue to work with international partners to build on the work the Turkmen Government has begun on fulfilling its human rights obligations through civil society development, good governance and the rule of law.