The statement was delivered by Riccardo Lepri on 23 September, 2016, during the session “Working session 9: Rule of law II”, which focused on abolition of death penalty, torture and human rights in anti-terrorism.
Thank you Mr. Moderator.
I am speaking on behalf of the international human rights campaign “Prove They Are Alive!” which concerns enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan.
Our campaign has documented 88 cases of people held in full isolation, with no external contacts whatsoever, including with their families, for periods going up to 13 years.
Enforced disappearance is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and as such, it falls under the same absolute prohibition of torture which has been so well illustrated during this session. And we are grateful that the European Union and associated countries, and the USA spoke about this and about the case of Turkmenistan.
The delegation of Turkmenistan in the opening plenary claimed that 50 people from the list I have just mentioned have been released, and they also claimed that they have been exchanging information about the situation with international organisations.
I would like to stress that releasing people at the end of their terms, or on pardon or for whatever other reason, as well as exchanging information about people in prison with international organisations is not a solution to enforced disappearances. The solution is to ensure access to prisoners by families, by lawyers, by independent monitors –you name it: contacts with the external world –and this is not happening. In spite of the campaign and of the efforts by, among the rest, institutions of the European Union and several countries such as the US and Germany, this is not happening for the 88 people in our list –and maybe even for more.
Therefore we call for Turkmenistan to ensure access to people in full isolation and to cease this practice of full isolation, and we call on the OSCE and its participating States to keep the pressure high on Ashgabat in order to achieve this result.
Thank you very much.