Turkmenistan: Urgent appeal sent on 12 February 2010 jointly with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or
belief, Heiner Bielefeldt
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received
(a) Allegations transmitted to the Government
384. The Special Procedures mandate holders brought to the attention of the Government information regarding Mr. Navruz Nasyrlaev, son of a baptised Jehovah’s Witness who has not yet been baptised himself, residing in Dashoguz; Mr. Sakhetmurad Annamamedov; Mr. Mukhammedmurad Annamamedov; Mr. Shadurdi Ushotov; and Mr. Akmurat Egendurdiev, who are Jehovah's Witnesses and conscientious objectors in Turkmenistan.
385. According to the information received, on 7 December 2009, Mr. Navruz Nasyrlaev was sentenced by the Dashoguz City Court under article 219, part 1, of the Turkmen Criminal Code to two years imprisonment in a general regime labour camp for his refusal to serve in the military. Mr. Navruz Nasyrlaev appealed against his sentence, but in its decision of 3 January 2010 the Dashoguz Regional Court upheld the original sentence of the court of first instance. Mr. Navruz Nasyrlaev was called up in March 2009 when reaching the age of 18. He, however, refused to serve in the army because of his beliefs.
386. With the arrest and sentencing of Mr. Navruz Nasyrlaev, a total of five conscientious objectors are currently serving prison terms in Turkmenistan: Mr. Sakhetmurad Annamamedov and Mr. Mukhammedmurad Annamamedov originally received a suspended sentence in November 2008, which was commuted to a two years prison sentence on 21 May 2009. Mr. Shadurdi Ushotov was convicted for refusing to serve in the military on 13 July 2009. Mr. Akmurat Egendurdiev was sentenced on 29 July 2009 to 18 months of imprisonment. All are currently imprisoned at Seydi Labour Camp.
387. Three more conscientious objectors are serving non-custodial sentences. Mr. Vladimir Golosenko, from Turkmenbashi, was sentenced in February 2008 to two years of forced labour and 20 percent of his salary goes to the State. Mr. Zafar Abdullaev was given a two-year suspended sentence by Dashoguz City Court in April 2009. He is currently living at home. Also in April 2009, the Dashoguz City Court rendered a suspended sentence of two years against Mr. Dovran Kushmanov. He has to report to the police weekly.
388. The Jehovah’s Witness young men have indicated that they were willing to do alternative non-military service, however, the laws of Turkmenistan offer no non-combat alternative to those who cannot serve in the military on grounds of conscience, religion or belief.
(b) No response received from the Government
(c) Observations by the Special Rapporteur
389. The Special Rapporteur regrets that he has so far not received a reply from the Government of Turkmenistan concerning the above mentioned allegations. He appeals to Government of Turkmenistan to ensure the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion of the above mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses in accordance with article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Human Rights Committee indicated in its general comment 22 that a right to conscientious objection “can be derived from article 18, inasmuch as the obligation to use lethal force may seriously conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to manifest one's religion or belief.” Furthermore, he would like to draw the attention of the Government to paragraph 5 of Resolution 1998/77 of the Commission on Human Rights, which emphasizes that States should take the necessary measures to refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment.
390. The Special Rapporteur refers to Opinion No. 16/2008 of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (A/HRC/10/21/Add.1, p. 139), in which concerns are expressed that the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Navruz Nasyrlaev, Mr. Sakhetmurad Annamamedov, Mr. Mukhammedmurad Annamamedov, Mr. Shadurdi Ushotov, and Mr. Akmurat Egendurdiev might represent an unlawful restriction of their right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. In its Opinion, the Working Group declared arbitrary the imprisonment – including the first term in case of repeated convictions – of a conscientious objector as being in violation of the rights guaranteed by article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
391. The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate the observations and recommendations on the issue of conscientious objection in his predecessor’s country report on Turkmenistan (see A/HRC/10/8/Add.4, paras. 17, 50-51, 61 and 68). In paragraph 68 of the country report, the Special Rapporteur recommended that “the Government should ensure that conscientious objectors in Turkmenistan, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to serve in the army due to their religious beliefs, be offered an alternative civilian service which is compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection. As such, the Government should also revise the Conscription and Military Service Act which refers to the possibility of being sanctioned twice for the same offence. The Special Rapporteur would like to recall that according to the principle of “ne bis in idem”, as enshrined in article 14 (7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or HRC/16/53/Add.1 she has already been convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.”