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Bishkek (AKIpress) - With the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child set to begin its review of Turkmenistan today, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) sound alarm about persistent violations of the rights of children and young people in this closed Central Asian country.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, a body that monitors implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, first reviewed Turkmenistan in 2006. Meeting in Geneva, the Committee will now take stock of the progress made by the Turkmen Government in the years since then.
A report submitted for the review by TIHR, a Vienna-based exiled group that works closely together with activists inside Turkmenistan, details violations of the rights of children and young people in the areas of freedom of expression and access to information; education, leisure and cultural activities; as well as basic health and welfare. The report shows that the situation in these areas remains of serious concern and that the authorities have failed to bring about any substantial improvements in spite of reform promises made by President Berdymukhamedov when taking power in 2007.
The Turkmen authorities continue to impose wide-ranging restrictions on all forms of mass media with the aim of preventing citizens, including children from obtaining information that is not controlled by the state. While Internet penetration has slowly been increasing in recent years, the authorities have cracked down on “suspicious” online content by blocking access to foreign sites that report independently about the situation in the country, social networking sites, as well as online forums and messaging applications that are popular among young people.
Broad layers of the population have benefited little from Turkmenistan’s natural resource wealth and many children especially in rural regions still grow up in poor living conditions, e.g. without access to safe drinking water. Families whose homes have been demolished to make way for grandiose government construction projects have often not received adequate compensation – if any at all, and support pledged to large families has largely remained declaratory in nature.
While a number of new high-end medical facilities have been constructed in recent years, the health care sector continues to be plagued by basic problems such as misallocation of resources, corrupt practices and lack of qualified staff, supplies and medicines, all of which endanger the health of both adults and children. The authorities continue to deny and conceal information on health matters, such as the outbreak of infectious diseases, and have increasingly resorted to questionable tactics in the name of enforcing moral standards and promoting healthy lifestyles among young people.
TIHR and IPHR encourage the Committee on the Rights of the Child to give close attention to the issues highlighted in TIHR’s report and to request the Turkmen Government to account in detail for its policies in these areas, as well as its lack of progress on recommendations made by the Committee eight years ago.
The Committee will adopt a list of questions that the Turkmen authorities will be asked to respond to ahead of the final stage of the review, which is scheduled to take place in January 2015 and will involve a face-to-face dialogue with Turkmen government officials.