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Turkmenistan: Government Restricts Human Rights

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says the government of Turkmenistan committed serious human-rights abuses in 1998 and continues to severely restrict the political and civil liberties of its citizens.

In its annual report on human-rights practices around the world, made public today, the State Department says arbitrary arrests, detentions, unfair trials and interference with citizens' privacy in Turkmenistan remain serious problems. The report adds that security forces continue to beat and mistreat suspects and prisoners. Prison conditions remain poor and unsafe.

The report says the government completely controls the media, censoring all newspapers and rarely permitting independent criticism of government policy or officials.

The report criticizes the government for giving favored treatment to ethnic Turkmen over minorities, and to men over women. Women experience disturbing societal discrimination, and domestic violence against women is a serious problem, the report says.

The report also says that the law on religion in Turkmenistan -- amended most recently in 1996 -- reaffirmed a number of important religious freedoms but also tightened government control of religious groups. It adds that the requirement that religious organizations have at least 500 Turkmen citizens as members to be registered legally has prevented many religious groups from legally establishing themselves.

On a positive note, the report says that the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights -- which was given a mandate to monitor human rights in Turkmenistan -- completed its second year of operation.