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Turkmenistan: Political Dissidents Placed In Mental Hospitals

Warsaw, 25 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A member of the U.S. delegation to a human rights conference in Warsaw today criticized Turkmenistan for placing political dissidents in mental hospitals. He also urged Turkey to develop democracy and civil society in a faster way.

Michael R. Hathaway said the participating states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) committed themselves in 1990 through the Charter of Paris for a New Europe to strengthen democracy and respect human rights.

But he said not all of them kept the promises and noted that Turkmenistan and Turkey are at the top of the list of those which have failed to implement their commitments. "Turkmenistan still finds political dissidents mentally ill and incarcerates them in psychiatric institutions," Hathaway said.

The U.S. official quoted an example of Durdymurad Khojimuhammad, leader of the Democratic Development Party who was thrown into a mental hospital for being critical of the government of President Niyazov.

"The misuse of mental health institutions against political dissidents violates OSCE commitments, UN commitments, and the most fundamental norms of human decency," Hathaway said. "The government of Turkmenistan must put an end to this practice and then OSCE must settle for nothing else." Turning to the situation in Turkey, Hathaway said the development of genuine democracy and civil society in Turkey proceeds slowly. He noted the United States is against acts of terrorism perpetrated by the terrorist Kurdystan Workers Party in Turkey. "That said, the ongoing struggle against terrorism has become an excuse to deny or limit the exercise of fundamental freedoms and human rights whose protection and promotion is the first responsibility of government," he said. Hathaway said four former parliamentarians from the currently banned Kurdish-based Democracy Party (DEP) , Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak Cremain are in jail for their activity. Leyla Zana was indicted and imprisoned for being only present in 1993 at a public briefing of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Washington D.C. of which Hathaway is the Chief of Staff.

"I can tell you that Mrs Zana did not speak at this session, but was merely present," he said.