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IHF calls for UN resolution on rights abuses

The International Helsinki Federation (IHF) has appealed to the 15 member states of the EU for their support for a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Turkmenistan for committing human rights abuses. "There should be a broader expression of the international community's rejection of the regime's practices," Aaron Rhodes, the IHF executive director, told IRIN from the Polish capital, Warsaw. "This is necessary to mobilise all countries to examine their bilateral relationships and to encourage business enterprises to examine their relationships in view of their social responsibilities." His comments follow a statement from the Vienna-based group on Tuesday, stating that as EU members had played a strong role in mobilising the UN Human Rights Commission on behalf of human rights in Turkmenistan, they should now sponsor a resolution in the General Assembly to commit the world community more strongly to improving the human rights situation in what has been described as one of the most repressive dictatorships on earth. "The human rights situation in Turkmenistan is extremely threatening to its citizens and all who inhabit the country, and indeed, a threat to regional and international security," Rhodes asserted. Comparing the regime of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to that of North Korea's Kim Yong-tae and Iraq's Saddam Hussein, he explained that the social and spiritual foundations of Turkmen society had been brutally debased by the dictatorial regime that polluted all spheres of life, imposing conformity and obedience with the threat of violent reprisals. "Children are at particular risk, especially now as they are forced to work at harvesting cotton," the activist said. Such a call is just the latest from a number of prominent international rights activists following an increasingly dire human rights situation in the reclusive Central Asian state, after an alleged assassination attempt on Niyazov's life in November. According to a report last month by Amnesty International, Ashgabat was extremely intolerant of dissent and had severely curtailed civil and political liberties. Opponents of the regime had been forced into exile or faced imprisonment and persecution, and no independent political parties could openly operate in Turkmenistan. The report went on to note that civil society activists had also faced persecution and imprisonment, and no independent rights groups had been able to function in the country, adding: "Religious freedom has been severely curtailed, and the authorities in this virtually closed country have retained tight control of the media." Emphasising the need for a resolution now, Rhodes maintained that countries that engaged in heavy economic cooperation with energy-rich nation - particularly the Russian Federation - could play a role, but it was a role that would require sacrifices. "It is worth sacrificing temporary economic advantages to take a moral and principled stand and to save the people of this unfortunate country," he said. [For a complete copy of the IHF report on Turkmenistan see: www.ihf-hr.org]

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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