Although the 2016 constitution declares Turkmenistan to be a secular democracy, the country has an authoritarian government controlled by the president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and his inner circle. Berdimuhamedov has been president since 2006 and remained president following a February 2017 presidential election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights determined that the election involved limited choice between competing political alternatives. In May the country conducted interim parliamentary elections that were not subject to international observation, to replace two parliamentary members. The 2016 constitution extended the presidential term in office from five to seven years, cancelled a maximum age limit of 70 years, and failed to reintroduce earlier term limits.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
There most significant human rights issues included torture; arbitrary arrest and detention; involuntary confinement; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement; restrictions on access to the internet; and citizens’ inability to choose their government through free and fair elections that include real political alternatives; and endemic corruption. There was also trafficking in persons, including use of government-compelled forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; restrictions on the free association of workers; and forced destruction of domiciles of Ashgabat residents. Same-sex sexual conduct between men remained illegal.
Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were no reported prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses.