February 20, 2017
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah
Olympic Council of Asia and,
Association of National Olympic Committees
P.O. Box 6706
Dear OCA and ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah,
Greetings from Human Rights Watch. I am writing to follow up on my letter sent on December 9, 2016 and resent on January 31, 2017. On this date, I sent the letter directly to Vinod Tiwari for his consideration. The original letter is again attached.
We are keen to hear from you about steps you are taking to address concerns about human rights in Turkmenistan. As we noted in our original December 2016 letter, under the Olympic Council of Asia’s Constitution and Rules the OCA is committed to apply and uphold “Olympic principles as defined in the Olympic Charter” and sets as among its goals the pledge to promote and develop “the Olympic Movement and its noble ideals among Asian people.” The International Olympic Committee charter enshrines press freedoms and human dignity as values the Olympic movement should uphold across all sporting federations. The Turkmen government’s extreme and sustained repression of press freedoms and free speech and its persistent degradation of human dignity blatantly contravenes the requirements and spirit of the Olympic Charter. Yet the Turkmen government will almost certainly use the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to whitewash its abysmal human rights record.
In this context, in our letter we asked the OCA to raise certain concerns with the government of Turkmenistan. These concerns are listed again below. With reference to the Games, we would like information about what specific steps the OCA are taking, or plan to take to raise the following issues:
- Ensure that journalists, foreign and Turkmen alike, can report without fear of retribution on a wide range of issues related to the Games and the context in which they take place.
- Ensure that homeowners and residents forcibly evicted for construction of Games-related venues and infrastructure are fairly and adequately compensated for their property;
In the context of the Games in Turkmenistan, it would also be valuable for the OCA to, in the near future, state publicly its commitment to upholding the human rights principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter.
More generally, we would value information on steps taken by the OCA to address the following concerns in Turkmenistan (addressed in detail in the original letter):
- Unconditionally free journalists Saparmamed Nepeskuliev and Khudayberdy Allashov;
- Ensure that journalist Soltan Achilova and other independent contributors to media can work without undue interference and retribution; halt any ongoing, and refrain from initiating further, politically motivated arrests, prosecutions, harassment and other actions against independent journalists, activists, and civil society groups, and allow them to carry out their legitimate work without interference.
- Allow people in Turkmenistan to restore their private satellite dishes so as to enhance their access to independent information, not controlled by the state;
- Provide families of prisoners who have been barred from all contact with their loved ones information about their family member’s fate and whereabouts in custody and allow for visits, letters, packages, and the like.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or your staff in coming weeks to discuss these issues in more detail. My contact details are below to organize a telephone call or meeting. Please note that as part of our on-going work on Turkmenistan we may make public this letter and your response. If you are able to reply by March 10, 2017 we will ensure that your views are fully incorporated into our work.
Thank you for prompt attention to this letter and I look forward to hearing from you.
Europe & Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
CC: International Olympic Committee