[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Friday urged Turkmenistan to place a stronger emphasis on human rights [press release]. At a joint press conference with Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Ban said that he, "called on the government to fulfill all obligations under international human rights law and the many treaties to which it is a signatory." Ban arrived in Turkmenistan [UN News Centre report] Thursday, his first stop on his week-long tour of Central Asia, which will also include visits to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan as a chance to discuss regional cooperation, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, and development.
Turkmenistan has been undergoing a transitional phase as it attempts to emerge from its authoritarian past as part of the Soviet Union. The country adopted a new constitution [JURIST report] in 2008, which envisioned a new multi-party political process and provided for limits on presidential power. Political reforms in Turkmenistan come after President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, who remained in office for 21 years, died in 2006 [BBC obituary]. Turkmenistan gained its independence upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country has been cited by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights [advocacy website] for widespread interference in judicial affairs, using torture, and suppressing political opposition, media, and civil society. The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (DPT), which was previously called the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR, is the country's ruling and only legal political party.