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. In August the country conducted interim parliamentary elections, which were not subject to international observation, to fill a limited number of vacant seats. In September parliament ratified a new constitution that 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.
The most important human rights problems in 2016 were: arbitrary arrest and detention; involuntary confinement; torture; disregard for civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and movement; and citizens’ inability to choose their government through free-and-fair elections that include real political alternatives.
Other continuing human rights problems included denial of due process and fair trial and arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence. Restrictions on access to the internet and certain sites and information sources remained a significant problem. There was also discrimination and violence against women; 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.
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.