Russia absents in UN vote on human rights in Turkmenistan

Russia absents in UN vote on human rights in Turkmenistan

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow
23 Apr 04

Russia has absented in the UN Human Rights Commission’s recent vote on
Turkmenistan, which is said to violate human rights of ethnic
minorities, including Russians, a Russian newspaper has reported. The
participation in the development of Turkmen energy sector “looks much
more attractive to Moscow than the protection of human rights of its
own citizens”, the newspaper suggested. The following is the text of
Viktoriya Panfilova’s report entitled: “The UN is no authority to
Turkmenbasy. Moscow conspires with Asgabat by refusing to support a
resolution on protection of national minorities in Turkmenistan” and
published by Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta website on 23
April; subheadings inserted editorially:

The other day in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Commission adopted a
harsh resolution condemning the violation of human rights in
Turkmenistan, with 25 countries voting for the resolution, 11 against
it, and 17 abstaining from voting. The document states inadmissible
facts of “discrimination in the sphere of education and employment of
ethnic Russians, Uzbeks, and other national minorities,” “arbitrary
arrests, incarceration, and curtailed freedom to obtain information
and self-expression.”

Symptomatically, the abstaining countries included Russia, whose
citizens living in Turkmenistan are considered people of second
quality and know first-hand what discrimination is. It seems that a
hypothetical opportunity to take part in the development of Turkmen
energy resources looks much more attractive to Moscow than the
protection of human rights of its own citizens.

The official position of Moscow was voiced by Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Yuriy Fedotov, who declared: “Basically, we proceed from the
fact that so-called ‘country-specific resolutions’, particularly those
made by the UN Human Rights Commission, can hardly improve the real

Russia’s ‘absolute indifference’

It is unclear how much attention Moscow paid to the fact that in
appreciation of the support he received from Russia, Turkmenbasy
Turkmen President Saparmyrat Nyyazow signed an edict on construction
of yet another fountain in place of the recently demolished Russian
Theatre of Drama in Asgabat. It seems that the Russian-speaking people
have become accustomed to absolute indifference displayed by the
historical homeland to their problems and do not count on help from
bureaucrats from Smolensk Square Russian Foreign Ministry seat or the

The Russian indifferent position unties Nyyazow’s hands, and as a
result the discrimination of ethnic minorities in Turkmenistan is
worsening. Specifically, the specialists who graduated from higher
education institutions after 1993 outside Turkmenistan are to be
dismissed by 22 May of this year. Representatives of national
minorities are not allowed to hold positions in financial and military
structures, the judicial system, or the police and other security
services. In addition, teachers and doctors have been dismissed as
well. In an overwhelming majority of cases, those are Russians,
Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Armenians, and children from mixed marriages. Even if
one of the parents is Turkmen, more lenient treatment should not be

Human rights situation worsens

It stands to reason that President Nyyazow has not reacted in any way
to yet another portion of criticism on the part of the international
community. Turkmenbasy respects no resolutions, especially that they
are adopted on a permanent basis. Last November, for example, a
document condemning the violation of human rights in Turkmenistan was
adopted by the UN General Assembly. “Unfortunately, the Turkmen
government has not resolved the problems raised by the UN Human Rights
Commission. On top of it, the human rights situation in Turkmenistan
noticeably deteriorated in 2003 and early months of 2004,” Aaron
Rhodes, the International Helsinki Federation executive director, has

Sympathizing country

Notably, Ukraine proved one of the 11 countries sympathizing with
Turkmenbasy. Similar to Moscow, Kiev hopes to sign a gas contract for
25 years. It is unclear, however, whether Turkmenistan has enough gas
for everyone who wants it.

Recently, Russia itself was classified into the same group as
Turkmenistan and Belarus, drawing criticism from the UN Human Rights
Commission. Last week in Geneva, an EU resolution on Chechnya was
discussed. The EU’s main complaint is that the crimes being committed
in Chechnya have not been properly investigated. So, Moscow has no
time now for some compatriots living in the “spiritually close”