Turkmenistan: Six more conscientious objectors imprisoned since June

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Courts in Turkmenistan continue to imprison conscientious objectors. Since June, six more conscientious objectors have been imprisoned: one in June, three in July and two in August. This adds to two other conscientious objectors imprisoned in January this year.

There are now eight conscientious objectors from Turkmenistan -all Jehovah's Witnesses aged 18 to 24- known to be imprisoned from one to two years for refusing compulsory military service on religious grounds.

Six of them, imprisoned between January and July - Arslan Begenchov, Kerven Kakabayev, Mekan Annayev, Ikhlosbek Rozmetov, Veniamin Genjiyev and Maksat Jumadurdiyev–, are serving their sentences at a labour camp in Seydi.

Isa Sayayev, 24, and Ruslan Artykmuradov, 18, had their trials in August and each has been sentenced to one-year imprisonment at an ordinary regime labour camp. They have both appealed their court decisions and are now held in detention centres in the city of Dashoguz and Turkmenabad respectively.

As reported by Forum 18, if they lose their appeals, they are likely to be sent to serve their sentences at the same labour camp with other six conscientious objectors.

In Turkmenistan, military service is compulsory for men between 18 and 27, and it is generally two years. Despite repeated calls by the United Nations1 and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe2, the Turkmenistan state doesn't offer any civilian alternative to military service.

Young men refusing to be conscripted on grounds of conscience face prosecution under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1, according to which refusers can be sentenced up to two years of imprisonment or corrective labour.

Source: Forum 18, Turkmenistan: Now eight jailed conscientious objectors, 16 August 2018; Forum 18, Turkmenistan: Three more conscientious objectors jailed, 30 July 2018; Forum 18, Turkmenistan: Jailings of conscientious objectors resume, 23 March 2018; Forum 18, Turkmenistan: Seven conscientious objectors sentenced in 2016, 3 October 2016.

Edit [6 September 2018]: On 6th September, Forum 18 reported the imprisonment of one more conscientious objector, 18 year-old Sokhbet Agamyradov. This adds to six conscientious objectors who have been jailed since June. According to this latest update, now there are known to be nine conscientious objectors in total who are serving behind bars. Read more on Forum18 here

1 As reported by Forum 18, in March 2017, at the end of its review of Turkmenistan's record under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee repeated its call on the authorities to end punishments for those unable to perform military service on grounds of conscience and introduce an alternative, civilian service (CCPR/C/TKM/CO/2).

2 In its review of the draft Constitution in July 2016, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe recommended that the Constitution should include a provision for alternative civilian service. The draft Constitution was later signed by the Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in September 2016 without any provision for alternative civilian service.

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Semih Sapmaz

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