Turkmenistan: Authorities must respect the rights of detained lawyer Pyagemberdy Allaberdyvev

Today, the ICJ called on Turkmenistan to comply with its international legal obligations to release detained lawyer Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, who is alleged to be arbitrarily detained, or to charge him with a cognizable crime consistent with international human rights law.

Allaberdyev, who has been denied access to his lawyer, should be provided access to the lawyer hired by his family and should have access to family members. He should be sufficiently informed about any charges against him which justify his arrest and should be provided with medication, food and other necessities which may be necessary to protect his right to life and health.

According to the Russian-based Memorial Human Rights Centre, on 5 September at about 7 pm, Pybamberdy Allaberdyev and another person were leaving a grocery store, when an unknown young man unexpectedly approached began a verbal skirmish, then grabbed Allaberdiev by the collar. Almost immediately, police officers appeared and the attacker pointed to the lawyer as the instigator of the conflict, after which he left. This conflict is believed to be staged as a justification to detain the lawyer.

Allaberdiev was taken to the police station, where the attacker came with a bandaged hand 20 minutes later. Soon after, Ministry of National Security officers from Ashgabat came to the police station, and accused Allaberdiyev of having links with activists of the Turkmenistan protest movement based abroad. He was interrogated without a lawyer and his house was searched. Family members have sought to provide him with needed medicine and food, but were said to have been prevented by the authorities from doing so.

On 8 September, the Prosecutor’s Office issued an arrest warrant against Allaberdyev. He is charged with crimes under Article 108 (intentional harm to health of moderate severity) and 279 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan. Allberdyev never appeared before the court, as it is the Prosecutor’s Office which authorizes arrest warrants in Turkmenistan, a practice which is contrary to Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkmenistan is a party.

The arrest of Pybamberdy Allaberdyev is suspected to be related to his alleged links or discussions with Turkmen activists living outside Turkmenistan who protested against upcoming constitutional amendments. The ICJ is concerned that these charges are arbitrary and in violation of his rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression, protected under the ICCPR, to which Turkmenistan is a party.

The ICJ recalls that, under the UN Basic Principles on the role of lawyers, “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization” (Principle 23).

Under the ICCPR, Turkmenistan is also bound to respect the rights to liberty and to fair trial. Under Article 9(3) of the ICCPR, anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.  A Prosecutor, as representative for a party to the case, cannot be such an officer.

In this connection, the ICJ stresses that the right of access to qualified legal representation is crucial for the protection of the human rights of those arrested.


The Republic of Turkmenistan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1997.

On 19 August 2020, the Constitutional Commission for the development and consolidation of proposals in connection with the introduction of amendments and additions to the Constitution of Turkmenistan completed work on draft amendments to the Constitution. Under the draft amendments, a bicameral parliament, the National Council, would be established, with Khalk Maslakhaty (People’s Council) and the Mejlis (Assembly) being its higher and lower chambers respectively. Under the new amendments, former Presidents of Turkmenistan acquire membership in Khalk Maslakhaty for life.

On 7 September 2020, the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center and the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation issued a statement about the detention of  Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, a lawyer at a State oil company, by the police.

On August 2020, a number of Turkmen activists based abroad organized protests against the constitutional amendments and the lack of response of the State to the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkmenistan.

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