Ban urgesTurkmenistan to do more for education, prison conditions

U.N. Secretary-General said he had won human rights concessions from Turkmenistan after urging the country to focus more on the issues on his first tour.

Ban urgesTurkmenistan to do more for education, prison conditions

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had won human rights concessions from Turkmenistan on Friday after urging the country to focus more on the issue on his first tour of former Soviet Central Asia.

Ban and other U.N. officials said after talks with Turkmen leaders that they had agreed to do more to meet U.N. requirements on education and prison conditions. There was no immediate comment from Turkmen officials.

Advocacy groups have urged the U.N. chief to press rights questions in the ethnically divided region where governments tolerate little dissent and tend to jail political opponents.

Ban said he was given "a very positive response" after urging President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to accept a visit by a U.N. special rapporteur -- or investigator -- on education. "They will favourably consider issuing this invitation," he said.

Other U.N. officials said the U.N. Human Rights Council had been urging Turkmenistan for years to accept visits by special rapporteurs. They quoted Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov as telling Ban at a government-run human rights and democracy centre that he saw "no problem" about such a visit.

Ban said he had also raised prison conditions with Berdymukhamedov, and was "given a very positive assurance that they will improve all penitentiary systems".

U.N. officials said the president had told his justice minister to review penal systems, including looking at alternatives to prison, to conform to international standards.

Ban earlier said he wanted to engage more with Turkmenistan -- the most isolated of the five "stans" of Central Asia -- over human rights.

"I called on the government to fulfil all obligations under international human rights law," he told journalists, speaking alongside Berdymukhamedov.

Turkmenistan, Central Asia's biggest natural gas producer, is slowly emerging from the shadow of its autocratic leader Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in 2006 after ruling for 21 years through a mixture of personality cult and repression.

Berdymukhamedov, the nation's new and more reformist leader, has been chipping away at Niyazov's personality cult but rights groups say his reforms have been largely cosmetic.

Criticism of the state remains taboo in Turkmenistan and there are no registered opposition parties. Most politicians critical of the government have left the country.

Berdymukhamedov, for his part, called on the United Nations to sponsor a long-term reconstruction programme in Afghanistan to focus on restoring transport, communications, industry, power supply and the building of schools and hospitals.

In his public remarks, he made no direct reference to the human rights situation in Turkmenistan, the issue that has focused the attention of Western advocacy groups on Ban's trip.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Nisan 2010, 20:59
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