Open Letter to Serdar Berdymukhamedov

To: Serdar Berdymukhamedov, President of Turkmenistan

From: The Prove They Are Alive! campaign

Dear President Berdymukhamedov:

We are writing to you following your recent election as President of Turkmenistan about the issue of enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan, a grave violation of human rights as recognized by the United Nations. We are asking you to consider our request in a most urgent way as you, as President, are personally responsible for the lives of dozens of people whose fates require immediate action.

Since 2002, Turkmenistan has engaged in the practice of enforced disappearances in its prison system. Hundreds of people have become victims of enforced disappearance. Being held in complete isolation from the outside world is a gross violation of Turkmenistan’s national legislation and of its international obligations, and is a human rights crime.

The international campaign, Prove They Are Alive!, has documented 162 cases of disappearance in Turkmenistan’s prisons. This is an ongoing crime—people continue to disappear into prison following arrest and are held in complete isolation, without access to legal representation or access to their families. At least 27 individuals from this list have died in prison; the real number of those who have disappeared and died in isolation during these years is likely much higher.

We are writing today about a specific group of people from the list of disappeared published by the Prove They Are Alive! campaign, whose terms have already expired. The names of individuals whose prison terms have ended in 2017-2021 but who continue to be illegally disappeared include Annageldy Akmuradov, Mamour Atayev, Esen Buriev, Isa Garataev, Bazar Gurbanov, Rustem Djumaev, Batyr Sardzhaev, Konstantin Shikhmuradov, Orazmammet Yklymov, and Ovezmurat Yazmuradov. Prison terms of a few others will end in 2022. One person, Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, served his full term in March 2019, but instead of being freed, he was transferred to internal exile in a remote area of the country where he is living in extremely poor conditions and suffers from health problems.

We request that you immediately and unconditionally release all those who have served their terms. We also request that you provide information immediately to the family members of the other forcibly disappeared prisoners about their health and wellbeing. Finally, we request that you end immediately end the practice of enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan’s prison system.

On December 10, 2019, the Prove They Are Alive! campaign wrote a letter to former President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov regarding this list. In the appeal, the campaign called on the Turkmen leader to employ all his power to comply with the norms of Turkmen national law and Turkmenistan’s international obligations and to demonstrate his humanity by ensuring unconditional and immediate release of prisoners from the list of the disappeared whose sentences have ended, and in the event of the death of any of them, immediately inform their families and provide them the opportunity to say goodbye to their families according to national custom. The campaign received confirmation that the letter was received by the authorities in the beginning of January 2020. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response from him.

We are hopeful that you will respond to our request.

The completion of prison sentences for an entire group of disappeared prisoners in Turkmenistan’s prisons, whose fates are closely monitored by the international community, provides you, and the government of Turkmenistan, with a legal opportunity to release these people. This could be the beginning of a real resolution of the problem of enforced disappearances in prisons and an opportunity for you, as the newly-elected president, to create a new reality in which enforced disappearances become an issue of the past.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Prove They Are Alive! campaign