The government of Turkmenistan has been urged to "immediately respond" to the United Nations and the family of Boris Shikhmuradov about the fate of the former foreign minister and first deputy prime minister.
Boris Shikhmuradov was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 30, 2002 for his alleged involvement in the assassination attempt of the then President Saparmurat Niyazov.
Since then, neither the family nor the lawyers have received any information about Boris Shikhmuradov, who has allegedly disappeared. International human rights campaign "Prove They Are Alive!" has demanded that the Turkmenistan government provide information on his whereabouts.
His wife, Tatyana, had complained to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2011 hoping that the international body would at least be able to influence official Ashgabat, and the family will be able to get information about Boris Shikhmuradov.
On October 17, 2014, "The Committee determined that Boris Shikhmuradov is a victim of a series of grave violations of human rights. In particular, the Committee determined that Shikhmuradov is a victim of an enforced disappearance and that the government of Turkmenistan failed to protect his life, violated his right to be free from torture, his right to a fair trial, and his right not to be subject to a retroactive penalty. The Committee also found that the government violated Tatiana Shikhmuradova’s right to be free from torture, in light of the suffering she has endured due to the long-term lack of information about her husband.”
The Committee added that the government of Turkmenistan is obligated to provide a remedy for Boris Shikhmuradov, including, “by immediately releasing him and granting him a just compensation, or, in the event that he has died, by giving Shikhmuradov’s remains to his family, and that the family should be compensated."
Official procedures directed Ashgabat to respond before November 9, 2015. However, there was no answer, reaction or comment.
Responding to a question posed by Fergana News on whether there is any mechanism for further impacting Ashgabat and what to do next, Tatyana said: "The U.N. Human Rights Committee issues reports annually, and their reports for 2015 and 2016 mention that Turkmenistan does not respond to the claims and demands of the Committee. I do not know what the procedure is, and whether the U.N. sends new reminders to Ashgabat if the answer is not received. But I admit that it does send; it's their job. Besides, Turkmenistan must regularly report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, and they are reminded of my case. You see, if a normal state receives such a decision from the Human Rights Committee taken on my complaint, they can ask questions within six months, clarify something, give comments, and all this should be sent by the U.N. Committee to the complainant and should at least initiate some dialogue. But I did not get anything from the Committee, which means that the Committee did not receive anything from Ashgabat. No answers. With Turkmenistan, there is no dialogue.”
“I am very grateful for the campaign ‘Prove They Are Alive!’ They are doing a great job, not letting people forget about those who have disappeared in Turkmenistan. They have a lot of personal meetings with diplomats and international officials, and they recently released a book of poems by Batyr Berdyev, who disappeared in prison... But the problem is that Ashgabat is silent, and there are no more tools that can be used to make them answer. It is indeed so."
Till date, the "Prove They Are Alive!" campaign has documented 112 cases of enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan, confirming deaths in custody in 23 cases.
Since 2013, Moscow has also been considering a judicial complaint by Tatyana about the inaction of the Russian Foreign Ministry; when Boris Shikhmuradova was sentenced to life imprisonment, the Russian Foreign Ministry did nothing to ease his fate and did not help his family, although Shikhmuradov is a Russian citizen.
"My complaint is still being considered," said Tatyana. "On November 30, there will be another appeal. Russian courts believe that my claims before the Foreign Ministry have no grounds; they say the Foreign Ministry has not been inactive. They also asked the Turkmen side, although they did not receive any answers from them. But there is no result! It is good that now they do not even say that Boris had no Russian citizenship: the migration service confirmed that at the time of the adoption of the law on the citizenship of the Russian Federation as he was a permanent resident of Moscow, that he did not apply for secession from citizenship... When we exhaust all avenues in Russia, then we will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. In 2013, when I complained, I wrote letters to both Putin and Berdymukhamedov. It would not have been answered from Ashgabat anyway, but the Russian President's administration would have written that it sent my letter to the Foreign Ministry... It is a vicious cycle, and I do not write to them anymore, it's useless."
The international campaign "Prove They Are Alive!" addressed the Turkmen government, saying: “Provide, without any further delay, a substantive reply to the U.N. Human Rights Committee on its decision in the case of Boris Shikhmuradov, and immediately implement the Committee’s decision regarding provision of remedy for Shikhmuradov and his family. End the suffering of relatives, who have for so many years been deprived of all contact with and information about their loved ones in prison.”
“End enforced disappearances, investigate each case, and make a concerted, public effort in the coming year to provide information to family members and the public about the fate and whereabouts of each disappeared person, and turn a page in this dark period of Turkmenistan’s contemporary history. We urge President Berdymukhamedov to ‘Prove They Are Alive.’”