Will Accreditation of the Ombudsman’s Office Change Anything for Human Rights in Turkmenistan?

The Office of the Ombudsman of Turkmenistan is scheduled to be accredited in the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) from 14 to 18 October, 2024. In this regard, the Ombudsperson Yazdursun Gurbannazarova had an online meeting with the GANHRI Secretariat on May 27, 2024 and later in person meeting with Matilda Bogner, the Regional Representative of the OHCHR in Central Asia.

The role of ombudsperson was established on the basis of the Law of Turkmenistan “On the Ombudsman” adopted in November 2016. The ombudsperson is tasked with making sure the state authorities, local governments and their officials observe and respect human and civil rights and freedoms of citizens of Turkmenistan. Yazdursun Gurbannazarova has been holding the position of Authorized Representative for Human Rights in Turkmenistan – Ombudsman since March 2017.

GANHRI is a global network of 120 national human rights institutions (NHRIs). It coordinates the relationship between NHRIs and the United Nations human rights system. Through its peer-review based accreditation process GANHRI ensures compliance with the 1993 Paris Principles to guarantee NHRIs independence, pluralism and accountability. Once accredited, the NHRIs must apply for re-accreditation every five years. There are two classifications for accreditation: A – fully compliant with the Paris Principles and B – partially compliant. For example, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan all have an accreditation classification of B.

However, according to Human Rights Watch authorities in Turkmenistan continue to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms of Turkmen citizens, including freedoms of religion, movement, expression, and association. Amnesty International states that the Turkmen government stifles all forms of public criticism and peaceful dissent, uses forced labor in cotton production and restricts rights of women, girls and LGBTI people. In its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices the US Department of State highlights forced disappearances, inhuman treatment of inmates, transnational repression, serious restrictions on freedom of expression, media and internet freedom, extensive gender-based violence among others. It designated Turkmenistan as Tier 3 country due to its poor anti-trafficking capacity and efforts. Turkmenistan is among countries considered as major perpetrators of transnational repression.

In January 2024, the European Parliament passed a resolution spotlighting dire human rights situation in Turkmenistan.

For instance, in 2022 the Ombudsperson’s Office accepted for consideration only 118 appeals out of 523 appeals they received. The Office does not have public communication and messaging. In the Report of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review several countries called upon Turkmenistan to strengthen the mandate and independent role of the Ombudsperson, the institutional capacity and competency of the Ombudsperson’s Office and its full compliance with the Paris Principles. Hence, to get the accreditation the Office of the Ombudsman will likely have to demonstrate how they guarantee and protect the rights of Turkmen citizens.

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