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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                            


Prison conditions are extremely harsh, and security forces routinely use torture to extract confessions or punish inmates, which can result in deaths in custody. Turkmenistanis are also subject to enforced disappearance.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Turkmenistan


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Turkmenistan.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Turkmenistan

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 10 August 2021]


Opposition media and NGOs did not report politically motivated disappearances during the year. Nonetheless an NGO-led advocacy campaign, Prove They Are Alive!, maintained a list of reported disappeared prisoners. The 2019 list included the names of 121 prisoners, the same number as the previous year, including two releases and two new names from 2018, although the NGO estimated the actual number to be in the hundreds. The list included former ministers of foreign affairs Boris Shikhmuradov and Batyr Berdyev, former director of the Turkmenbashy oil refinery Guychmyrad Esenov, and many others accused of participation in an alleged 2002 assassination attempt on previous president Saparmurat Niyazov.


Although the constitution and law prohibit mistreatment, in its January 2017 report (the latest available) the UN Committee against Torture noted its concern at “consistent allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment, including severe beatings, of persons deprived of their liberty, especially at the moment of apprehension and during pretrial detention, mainly in order to extract confessions.” Activists and former prisoners related mistreatment, such as beating kidneys with plastic bottles full of water so bruises do not show on the body and a practice known as sklonka, in which prisoners are forced to stay in the open sun or cold for hours at a time.

In its 2019 review of the country, Amnesty International stated, “Torture and other ill-treatment is reported to be widespread.” Human Rights Watch in its 2019 report stated, “Torture and ill-treatment remain integral to Turkmenistan’s prison system.”


Prison conditions reportedly remained unsanitary, overcrowded, and in some cases life threatening due to harsh treatment and inadequate medical care.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 18 May 2020]


Prison conditions are extremely harsh, and security forces routinely use torture to extract confessions or punish inmates, which can result in deaths in custody. Turkmenistanis are also subject to enforced disappearance; the  Prove They Are Alive!  human rights campaign reported that 121 people were disappeared in a 2018 report.

Suspended lives: torture of the families of the disappeared in Turkmenistan

Amnesty International, 30 November 2017

[accessed 3 December 2017]

It has been 15 years since the alleged assassination attempt on the then President of Turkmenistan, and 15 years since the families of those accused of the attack have been waiting to receive information about the fate and whereabouts of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons. The fate of at least 80 prisoners, who are subjected to enforced disappearance after the alleged assassination attempt, remains unknown. The Turkmenistani authorities are withholding all information and do not provide any official documentation, even copies of court verdicts, to the family members. Relatives of the disappeared, many of them women, have spent years searching for truth and justice.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


POLITICAL PRISONERS, ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES, AND TORTURE - More than a decade after their arrest and show trials during several waves of repression under former President Niyazov, several dozen people remain victims of enforced disappearances. They include former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, his brother Konstantin, and Turkmenistan’s former ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Batyr Berdiev. In 2014, Human Rights Watch received unverified information that several of the disappeared had died in custody.

Torture remains a grave problem. A 2014 report by a coalition of independent human rights groups, Prove They Are Alive!, described the torture of inmates in the Ovadan Tepe prison, a facility shrouded in secrecy that houses many people believed to have been sentenced on politically motivated charges. The government has persistently denied access to independent human rights monitors, including the Red Cross and 10 United Nations special procedures.

Central Asia: Widespread Rights Abuse, Repression

Human Rights Watch, Berlin, 31 January 2013

[accessed 14 February 2013]

Turkmenistan failed to take any meaningful steps to improve its longstanding abysmal rights record despite a damning assessment in March by a key UN expert body, the Human Rights Committee, which examined Turkmenistan’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and issued detailed recommendations for steps to address the concerns it identified.

The government forcibly detains dissidents in psychiatric facilities and persecutes people who fall out of government favor. Well-known political prisoners are serving lengthy prison terms on fabricated charges while the country remains closed to any independent human rights scrutiny. Independent civil society activists and journalists cannot operate freely, and human rights defenders face a constant threat of government reprisal.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/TKM/CO/1 (2011)

[accessed 10 March 2013]

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations Torture and ill-treatment

6. The Committee is deeply concerned over the numerous and consistent allegations about the widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in the State party. According to reliable information presented to the Committee, persons deprived of their liberty are tortured, ill-treated and threatened by public officers, especially at the moment of apprehension and during pretrial detention, to extract confessions and as an additional punishment after the confession. This information confirms the concerns expressed by a number of international bodies, inter alia, those expressed in the report of the Secretary- General (A/61/489, paras. 38-40) and in the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Kolesnik v. Russia, Soldatenko v. Ukraine, Ryabkin v. Russia and Garabayev v. Russia. While noting the existence of laws which prohibit, inter alia, abuse of power and the use of violence by officials against individuals in their custody for the purpose of obtaining evidence, the Committee is concerned about the substantial gap between the legislative framework and its practical implementation (arts. 2, 4, 12 and 16).

Fundamental legal safeguards

9. While noting article 26 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on legal assistance, the Committee expresses its serious concern at the State party’s failure in practice to afford all persons deprived of their liberty, including detainees held in temporary holding facilities (IVS), with all fundamental legal safeguards, as referred to in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2008) on the implementation of article 2 by States parties, from the very outset of detention. The Committee is concerned that the Criminal Code allows police officers to detain a person without the authorization of the prosecutor general for 72 hours and without presentation to a judge for up to one year. It is reported that detainees are frequently denied access to a lawyer and that violence is inflicted by police officers to extract confessions during that period of time. The Committee notes with concern reports that torture and ill-treatment of minors is widespread at the moment of apprehension and during pretrial detention (CRC/C/TKM/CO/1, para. 36) (arts. 2, 11 and 12).

Deaths in custody

16. The Committee is deeply concerned about numerous and consistent reports on a number of deaths in custody and on the alleged restrictions on independent forensic examination into the cases of such deaths, including the case of Ogulsapar Muradova, who was held incommunicado throughout her detention and died in custody under suspicious circumstances. This case, including signs of torture, has been well documented, and was taken up by the Secretary-General (A/61/489, para. 39) and several Special Rapporteurs (A/HRC/WG.6/3/TKM/2, para. 38) (arts. 2, 11, 12 and 16).

Misuse of psychiatric institutions

17. The Committee is deeply concerned about numerous and consistent credible reports of misuse of psychiatric hospitals to detain persons for reasons other than medical, in particularly for the non-violent expression of his/her political views. The Committee regrets that the State party has failed to reply to at least two urgent appeals sent jointly by the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev, a political dissenter (E/CN.4/2005/62/Add.1, para. 1817), and Sazak Durdymuradov, a journalist (A/HRC/10/44/Add.4, para. 239) (arts. 2, 11 and 16), in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

Coerced confessions

20. The Committee notes the existence of national legislation guaranteeing the principle of non-admissibility of coerced evidence in courts, such as article 45 of the Constitution and article 25, paragraph 1, of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Committee notes, however, with grave concern numerous, consistent and credible reports that the use of forced confessions as evidence in courts is widespread in the State party and that such practices persist owing to the impunity of guilty parties. The Committee expresses concern about the lack of information provided by the State party regarding any officials who may have been prosecuted and punished for extracting confessions (art. 15).


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


There were credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by security forces against people suspected of criminal offences. These included electric shocks, asphyxiation, rape, forcibly administering psychotropic drugs, deprivation of food and drink and exposure to extreme cold. Impunity for such abuses remained the norm and complaints by victims were rarely pursued.


The whereabouts of dozens of people convicted in unfair trials in 2002 and 2003 for the alleged assassination attempt on then President Niyazov remained unknown. Relatives had heard nothing for over 10 years, and did not know if their loved ones were still alive. The authorities reportedly harassed and intimidated relatives of detainees who tried to lodge appeals.

Despite allegations by non-government sources that at least eight of those convicted had died in detention, the authorities failed to disclose any information or open investigations.

Tirkish Tyrmyev, former Commander of Border Troops of Turkmenistan, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in 2002 for abuse of power. His relatives did not know his location but reported in March that he had been given an additional seven-year sentence as his release date approached, allegedly for a crime against a prison guard.


Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 7   Civil Liberties: 7   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 14 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) contributor Sazak Durdymuradov was held in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks in the summer of 2008, and reported that he had been beaten and tortured in custody.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 14 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, security officials tortured, routinely beat, and used excessive force against criminal suspects, prisoners, and individuals critical of the government. Police abuse also targeted religious minorities (see section 2.c.).

For example in April police detained private educator Alexander Fataliyev for nine days, beat him, and threatened him with death.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Turkmenistan",, [accessed <date>]