The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
October 13, 2010
The exiled Turkmen human rights defender Farid Tuhbatullin has received reliable information that an order to remove him quietly has been issued in his home country, Turkmenistan. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee takes this threat seriously and urges in a letter to Austrian authorities that they ensure the safety of Tuhbatullin and his family.
Tuhbatullin is editor of the website Chronicles of Turkmenistan and director of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, based in Vienna. Tuhbatullin was actively involved in promoting human rights in Turkmenistan, but was arrested in 2002 and after a period in prison forced to leave the country. He has been granted political asylum in Austria, where he is based with his family.
The threats may result from an interview on the human rights situation in Turkmenistan that Tuhbatullin gave on 28 September 2010 to the Kazakhstani TV-channel K+. The TV-channel also broadcast in Turkmenistan. The interview can be watched on here and here.
In a 30 September speech on the 19th Anniversary of independence, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov underlined the importance of an uncompromised fight against international terrorism, drug smuggling, nationalistic and radical religious groups, and against those who “slander the democratic, law-based secular state of Turkmenistan.” The statement may signify intensified fight against human rights activists by Turkmen authorities, and may also explain the threats against Tubhatullin. Read the speech here. [item removed from linked site]
Over the last week, Tuhbatullin has been informed by reliable sources that an order has been issued from the Turkmen security services to get rid of him quietly; that is through a car accident, poison, or other means. Tuhbatullin has asked for help from international human rights colleagues in a public appeal.
On this background, the NHC is concerned for the safety of Tuhbatullin, and call upon the Austrian government to take the threat seriously and install measures to protect Tuhbatullin and his family.
NHC also urge the Norwegian Government, the EU, the US and any other governments who are in the process of establishing business relations and bilateral agreements with Turkmenistan to object to the language used in the Turkmen President’s 30 September address. Such language, encouraging uncompromised fight against dissidents, creates an atmosphere of fear and is in clear breach with Turkmenistan’s international human rights obligations.
The President’s address as well as the threats against Tuhbatullin underlines the importance of EU member states as well as other European states to ensure that they have the necessary mechanisms to ensure the safety of threatened human rights defenders.
More information available from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/10/13/turkmenistan-activist-serious-risk-harm.