Twenty-nine NGOs from 15 different countries call on the European Parliament to postpone approval of the new EU-Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) until Turkmenistan’s government meets the Parliament’s human rights benchmarks. A letter with this message was sent to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs ahead of its planned consideration of the EU-Turkmenistan PCA on 11 April 2016 (postponed from 4 April 2016). The letter was also sent to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as well as its Sub-Committee on Human Rights.
For nearly 15 years, ratification of the EU-Turkmenistan PCA has been delayed over grave human rights concerns in Turkmenistan.
In its April 2009 resolution on the EU-Turkmenistan Interim Trade Agreement, the European Parliament set out specific human rights benchmarks the Turkmen government would need to meet before the PCA could be ratified. They include:
- the unconditional release of all political prisoners;
- the removal of obstacles to free travel;
- free access for the International Red Cross and other independent monitors; and
- improvements in civil liberties, including for nongovernmental organizations in Turkmenistan.
The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee reiterated these requirements in 2011, stressing that “protecting human rights is a prerequisite for closer ties with the EU.”
Since 2012 the Turkmen government has taken a number of steps that the EU considers to be aimed at improving compliance with international human rights standards. However, the government has made no substantial progress toward key benchmarks.
The letter concludes: “Turkmenistan’s government should not be awarded for reforms that in essence amount to window-dressing. Proceeding with a decision under the current circumstances could only be interpreted as a colossal capitulation to an abusive government and would also risk bringing into question the Parliament’s credibility and effectiveness as a positive force for the promotion and protection of human rights.”
The signatories to the letter include: International Partnership for Human Rights, Turkmenistan Initiative for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Federation for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the “Prove They Are Alive!” campaign and over 20 other NGOs.