The objectives of the campaign are to protect the rights of a large number of detainees serving long-term sentences in Turkmen prisons, about whom no information is available since their sentence, and to halt the practice of enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan´s prisons.
The “Prove They Are Alive!” campaign has been launched in 2013 with the goal of promoting work to defend human rights in Turkmenistan. The team includes Crude Accountability (USA), the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia), Freedom Files (Russia), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Center Memorial, Human Rights Watch as well as independent experts and civil society activists in Turkmenistan.
The campaign works with intergovernmental organizations including the United Nations, the OSCE, and the European Union, as well as with governments and parliaments of various countries and with international civil society.
Enforced disappearances of people sentenced to long prison terms is one of the most acute human rights violations in Turkmenistan. Our reports indicate evidence of continuous application of this practice since the 1990s, with more than 120 documented cases.
Enforced disappearances are a human right violation according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition, it is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment both for the disappeared individuals and their families, thus falling also under the scope of the UN Convention against Torture.
Turkmenistan has ratified both the Covenant and the Convention against Torture, and its constitutional framework stresses that domestic legislation must comply with international law. Criminal legislation is mostly in line with international standards and does not include full isolation of prisoners, regardless of the crimes committed.
The campaign “Prove they are Alive!” demands that the practice of enforced disappearances ceases at once, and specifically that the government of Turkmenistan provides information to the relatives of the disappeared about their whereabouts and their situation, allowing access and contacts according to domestic law and international standards.
The authorities should allow access by lawyers and independent monitors, and a review of the relevant court cases according to recent amendments of the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes.
Due to a certain sensitivity to its international image and current economic and security developments, Turkmenistan may be receptive to consistent international pressure on its numerous human rights shortcomings. Relevant activities with the EU and the OSCE go along in a constructive atmosphere since a few years already, although substantial results are yet to be seen.
We believe that, through progress on the issue of enforced disappearances, there is a chance to promote broader human rights developments in Turkmenistan. A constant, constructive and firm approach with the appropriate balance of pressure and engagement by the European Parliament, EU institutions and Member States could be a key factor to bring substantial improvements in the human rights situation of Turkmenistan.
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