Before you is a letter, which was sent in November 2013 to Rashid Meredov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, by members of the international campaign, ‘Prove They Are Alive.’ The campaign was developed to defend the dozens, possibly hundreds, of people who have disappeared in Turkmenistan’s prisons. In our letter, we asked the Minister simple questions about the fate of these people. No information about them has been available to their relatives or the international community for over ten years. They literally disappeared into the prison system. Their loved ones do not even know if they are dead or alive.
This letter has not been answered, which is regrettable. We have waited for three months.
The life and death of his fellow countrymen are at stake.
We know for a fact that the Minister received our letter. We are also certain that Minister Meredov has something to say on this subject.
First, he has been in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the past 13 years. Secondly, his predecessors in high office were among the very people who disappeared without a trace in Turkmen prisons over ten years ago—former Ministers Shikhmuradov and Berdyev. Dozens of others disappeared with them.
Perhaps it is awkward for Minister Meredov to answer our letter because on December 30, 2002, he personally demanded the death penalty for the majority of the disappeared. Many in Turkmenistan no doubt remember this because because the Minister’s presentation was televised. However, it is also possible that the Minister has not answered us because to do so he must first receive permission from President Berdymukhamedov; and, as a result, he would have to tell the President about the launch of the ‘Prove They Are Alive!’ campaign.
Telling the “Leader of All Turkmen” about the campaign would be terrifying. We understand Minister Meredov’s hesitation.
However, we hope that we can convince President Berdymukhamedov to respond to our concerns about the fates of the people who have disappeared in Turkmen prisons, to make an effort to join the ranks of political leaders of the modern world who correct injustice, to distance himself from the crimes of the previous leadership, and to open Turkmenistan to positive changes and mutually beneficial interaction with the international community.
We seek the assistance of international organizations, diplomats, journalists and all those who would like to stop the agony of the families of the disappeared. They have no knowledge of what has happened to their loved ones, and they have lived with this pain for more than ten years.
International Human Rights Campaign
November 7, 2013
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan
744000, Ashgabat, Archabil av., 108
We, members of the international campaign, “Prove They Are Alive!,” appeal to you with a proposal to meet in order to discuss the issue of disclosing information about those who disappeared in Turkmen prisons following events that took place in the first half of the 2000s, of which you are well aware.
The goal of the “Prove They Are Alive!” campaign, which we started in October 2013, is to disclose information about the fates of these people. In the majority of cases, no information has been available to relatives or the public about the imprisoned, who were given long-term or life sentences. The imprisoned are completely isolated from the outside world. International organizations have been denied information about the location of their imprisonment. The complete lack of information for more than ten years about the fate of their family members amounts to torture for the relatives. Their family members were sentenced to imprisonment, but not to death and oblivion. The international community, including intergovernmental organizations, the governments of many countries and nongovernmental organizations, is also seriously concerned about the fate of these people, and we would like to address our concerns to you and the government of Turkmenistan.
We hope to achieve the goal of our campaign—the disclosure of information about the fate of those who have disappeared in Turkmen prisons without any information—through direct dialogue with the government of Turkmenistan.
We would like to underscore the fact that the campaign, “Prove They Are Alive!,” has only humanitarian goals, without any political, legal or other aims.
The resolution of this humanitarian issue could be an important milestone on the path to reform and overcoming the legacy of dictatorship and a humane step that corresponds to Turkmenistan’s international legal status of permanent neutrality and its international obligations in the field of human rights.
We are sure that a positive reaction towards our initiative will strengthen the authority of the leadership of Turkmenistan and positively impact the international image of the country and prospects for international cooperation.
Our representatives are ready to meet with you at your convenience in Turkmenistan or outside of the country in order to discuss the possibilities for understanding and the prospects for interaction with the authorities of Turkmenistan in achieving our humanitarian goals.
With hope for dialogue,
Representatives of the campaign, “Prove They Are Alive!”:
Kate Watters, Executive Director, Crude Accountability (USA)
Yuri Dzhibladze, President, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Olga Zakharova, Director, International Analytical Center Freedom Files (Russia)
Vitaly Ponomarev, Director, Central Asian Program, Memorial Human Rights Center (Russia)
Bjorn Engesland, Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee (Norway)
Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
We look forward to receiving your reply at the following address:
Prove They Are Alive Campaign
P.O. Box 2345, Alexandria, VA 22301, USA