Man In Turkmenistan Is Missing After Revealing Sexual Orientation

By: Melissa Berouty

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — According to Freedom House’s index of basic freedoms, Turkmenistan is rated below North Korea and only above Syria. Under Turkmen law, the government has the authority to regulate behavior in an attempt to “construct the model Turkmen citizen.” Turkmen authorities exercise its control by brutally punishing any form of religious or political expression that does not align with the Turkmen government. Additionally, the Turkmen government limits the nature of print and electronic media available to its citizens.

The Turkmen government has a long history of enforced disappearances, where individuals’ whereabouts or fates serving long sentences in Turkmenistan are unknown. For more than ten years, the Turkmen government has prohibited loved ones, lawyers, and the outside world access to the imprisoned. Prove They Are Alive, a campaign committed to ending enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan, has reported at least 121 cases of enforced disappearances. Of these 121 cases, many are suspected to be detained in the Ovadanepe prison, which has a reputation for extreme conditions.

On October 24, 2019, it was reported that Kasymberdy Garayev was feared to be missing after allegedly revealing his sexual orientation, under a pseudonym, on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In Turkmenistan, homosexual conduct is a criminal act that can result in up to a two-year prison sentence. Today, approximately sixty-eight countries have laws that criminalize homosexual conduct between consenting adults. According to Human Rights Watch, sentencing in these sixty-eight countries “range from fines to life imprisonment and even the death penalty.” Rachel Denber, the deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, expressed her extreme concern for Garayev stating that “given Turkmenistan’s appalling human rights record, including enforced disappearances, we have every reason to fear for his safety and well-being.”

Kasymberdy Garayev is a 24-year-old cardiologist, who was employed at an elite clinic in Turkmenistan. On October 21, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a narrative, where Garayev allegedly reflected on his life in Turkmenistan stating that “since childhood, I knew that I was gay and it was hard for me to accept.” In 2018, Garayev was allegedly detained by Turkmen authorities upon a scheduled meeting with an online male love interest, which turned out to be a police officer. Here, Garayev allegedly stated that on the way to the police station, officers beat him, used a stun gun, and demanded that he make a statement on camera confirming his sexual orientation.

On October 24, 2019, Turkmen authorities allegedly requested Garayev’s presence for a background check.  From October 24, 2019 to November 6, 2019, Garayev’s whereabouts were unknown. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was also unable to locate Garayev’s family. According to Human Rights Watch, when an individual summoned by Turkmen authorities goes missing, “there is a real risk they could be the victim of an enforced disappearance.”

On October 31, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a video recording of Garayev2 speaking, where he disclosed his real name, expressed his fear of going missing, and begged for his family’s forgiveness.

During the time Garayev was feared to be missing, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, visited Rome. During Berdymukhamedov’s visit, several Italian LGBTQ+ activist groups urged Rome to speak out on Garayev’s disappearance. On November 6th, Italian Senator Monica Cirinna released a statement demanding the government press Berdymukhamedov on the details of Garayev’s disappearance. Later that day, Garayev returned home.

Since then, Garayev denies any communication with Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Garayev claims that the video farewell was recorded for a different purpose and sent mistakenly to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Additionally, after the release of Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty’s narrative, Garayev is no longer employed by the prestigious clinic in Turkmenistan where he once worked. Since Garayev’s alleged return home, several LGBTQ+ activist groups have started campaigns seeking to protect Garayev.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan: Gay Man Missing After Coming Out Online – 1 Nov. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – ‘If I Disappear, Forgive Me’: Missing Gay Turkmen’s Plea – 31 Oct. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – Gay man from Turkmenistan wants to make a statement to start a discussion – 21 Oct. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – The Turkmen President Is Alive, But What About His Prisoners? –  20 Aug. 2019

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan Events of 2018


UN Experts to Travel to Gambia Amid Increase in Human Trafficking Issues

By: Jordan Broadbent

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

BANJUL, Gambia — On June 20,2019, the Trafficking in Persons Report prepared by the U.S. Department of State ranked Gambia a Tier 3 country prompting the United Nations to send in experts to assess the situation.

Secretary of State Pompeo. Photo Courtesy of AP.

Tier 3 countries are those that do not comply with the minimum standards set by the U.S. Department of States’ Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and are not making significant efforts to meet those standards. The United States monitoring and ranking systems are internationally accepted.

Gambia was ranked Tier 3 after the publication of a five year long report that focuses on the use of Gambia as a central hub for human trafficking. Women and girls are trafficked through Gambia for the purposes of child marriages and sex trafficking and young boys are sold and trafficked through the country to be sold in to forced labor. The report shows that the number of people being trafficked through the country has increased in recent years.

Gambia’s capitol, Banjul, was highlighted in the report as a hotbed for child trafficking. The State Department’s study reported that tourists came to Banjul from all over the world to find child sex tourism rings.

Despite being continually criticized for the high rates of sex and human trafficking, the Gambian government has taken only modest steps in remedying the issue. In 2010, Gambia’s legislative body passed the Trafficking Persons Act which instituted a sentence ranging from 50 years to life in prison in addition to a fine as punishment to anyone found guilty of human trafficking. However, the Gambian government has failed to prosecute a single person for human trafficking in the past two years. The Gambian government has also failed to investigate child sex tourism, failed to identify and assist trafficking victims, and has not raised awareness on the issue on a national level for the past five years.

Due to the governments lack of action on the issue, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a special reporter to Gambia to monitor the issue. The Special Reporter will issue a report at the end of the visit at the state of Gambia’s government actions on human trafficking and child sex tourism within the country. The report will be published at the end of October.

For further information, please see:

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commission- Sale and Sexual Exploitations of Children: UN Export Visits Gambia- 18 Oct. 2019

U.S. Department of State – 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report-  20 June 2019

United States Embassy in Gambia- Press Release: Trafficking in Persons Report 2019- 20 June 2019

Refworld – 2018 trafficking in Persons Report in Gambia- 28 June 2018

The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber Confirms Al Hassan’s Charges

By: Madison Kenyon

Impunity Watch Staff Writer 

TIMBUKTU, Mali — On September 30, 2019, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) issued a unanimous decision confirming the charges brought against Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz (“Al Hassan”). These charges include both crimes against humanity and war crimes. This decision, however, merely commits Al Hassan to trial before the Trial Chamber, it does not necessarily confirm he is guilty.

Al Hassan sitting before the International Criminal Court. Photo courtesy of the ICC.

These charges arise from Al Hassan’s involvement with the Islamic militant group, Ansar Dine. This rebel group took control of Timbuktu in 2012 and enforced strict religious rules, including the ban of music and the destruction of non-Muslim religious sites. Al Hassan became the de facto chief of police and oversaw the enforcement of these rules. While serving as chief of police, Al Hassan allegedly also forced hundreds of women into sexual slavery.

The ICC issued a warrant for Al Hassan’s arrest on March 27, 2018 and he surrendered to the ICC four days later, on March 31. The hearing in front of the Pre-Trial Chamber occurred between July 8 and July 17, 2019. During the hearing, the prosecutor introduced the specific crimes Al Hassan is charged with, most of which stem from the widespread and systematic attack by armed groups against the civilian population of Timbuktu between April 1, 2012 and January 28, 2013, and include torture, rape, sexual slavery, cruel treatment and other inhumane acts, such as forced marriages and persecution. The prosecutor emphasized that due to Al Hassan’s actions and Ansar Dine’s control of Timbuktu, the civilians of Timbuktu “were subjected to a climate of constant fear and repression.”

Many nonprofit organizations are quite happy with the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision in confirming these charges. For example, Melinda Reed, the Executive Director of Women’s Initiative for Gender, stated, “[This decision] is another step in a positive evolution. Every decision matters. We are writing the jurisprudence of the future now, so every case and every step is extremely important with regards to gender based and sexual crimes.” However, many organizations believe the ICC is not doing enough, and rather they criticize the court for going after Al Hassan because he is an intermediate leader of Ansar Dine and not a high-level person of this rebel group.

Although a trial date has not yet been set, the Pre-Trial Chamber has authorized 880 victims to participate in the trial and provide testimony against Al Hassan. Thus, many should expect a long and emotional trial.

For further information, please see: 

ICC – Al Hassan Case: ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I Confirms Charges of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and Commits Suspect to Trial – 30 Sept. 2019

ICC – Situation in the Republic of Mali: The Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud – 30 Sept. 2019

Reuters – International Criminal Court Puts Mali War Crimes Suspect to Trial – 30 Sept. 2019

Courthouse News Service – Timbuktu Man Fights War Crimes Charges in UN Criminal Court – 11 July 2019


Human Rights Court Says Mandatory Religious Education in Greek Schools Violates the Convention

By: Mujtaba Ali Tirmizey

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

ATHENS, Greece — On October 31, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) held that mandatory religious education in Greek schools was a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (Right to Education) of the Convention, interpreted in light of Article 9 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion).

The applicants in this case were two sets of parents and their daughters, who live on small Greek islands. Under the Greek Constitution, religious education is compulsory for all students at primary and secondary level.

In July 2017, the applicants had requested the Supreme Administrative Court to invalidate the religious education curriculum for the 2017-18 school year, when their daughters were entering the third and fourth grades respectively. With the new school year fast approaching, the two families requested to have their case considered urgently but the court dismissed their requests.

In January 2018, arguing that the procedure for exemption from religious classes conflicted with the European Convention, the applicants lodged a complaint with the ECHR. They claimed that if they were to have their daughters exempted from religious education, they would have to state that they were not Orthodox Christians. In filing their complaint, the applicants relied on Article 9 and Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention.

The Court found that submitting a formal declaration saying that their children were not Orthodox Christians would place an undue burden on parents. The Court reasoned that the existing system in Greece for exempting children from religious education classes could potentially reveal sensitive aspects of an applicants’ private lives. In addition, the likelihood of conflict wound probably dissuade them from seeking exemption, particularly if they lived in a small and religiously condensed society, where the risk of stigmatization was much higher than in larger cities. Lastly, no other classes were offered to exempted students, which would lead to lost hours of schooling just for their professed beliefs.

Therefore, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1, as interpreted alongside Article 9 of the Convention. The Court emphasized that the authorities did not have the right to interfere in the scope of individual conscience, to establish individuals’ religious belief or to compel them to divulge their beliefs.

Greece lags behind almost all of the member states, where such an exemption procedure, or the option of attending a class in an alternate subject are already offered. This decision by ECHR is a monumental victory for religious minorities in Greece as it acknowledges their religious beliefs, allows them to be heard and strengthens their ability to pursue a modified curriculum in schools.

For further information, please see:

European Court of Human Rights – Greek System for Exempting Schoolchildren from Religious Education Classes Breaches the European Convention – 31 Oct. 2019

Law & Religion UK – Mandatory Religious Instruction Again: Papageorgiou – 31 Oct. 2019


Citing Article 8, ECHR Grants Psychiatric Patient Right to Attend a Family Funeral

By: Michelle Leal

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor 

PĀDURENI-GRAJURI, Romania – On October 8, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) held that the Romanian Government unfairly restricted a citizen from attending her mother’s funeral, thus violating Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Luminiţa Zamfira Solcan is a Romanian national currently living in a psychiatric facility in Pădureni-Grajduri. In 2005, Solcan committed a murder in France.

During the criminal investigation, medical experts diagnosed Solcan with paranoid schizophrenia. Further, the experts opined that Solcan’s acts were due to her paranoid delusions. The Mâcon County Court discontinued the criminal investigation against Solcan, opining that she committed the offense in a state of diminished responsibility. The court ordered Solcan’s placement in a psychiatric facility in France for an unspecified time.

In 2011, Solcan requested to be transferred to a facility in Romania to be closer to her mother. In 2012, Solcan was transferred to a psychiatric facility in Pădureni-Grajduri. About a year later, Solcan’s mother died.

The day after her mother’s death, Solcan lodged a request with the Iaşi District Court for leave to attend her mother’s funeral. However, a month later, the court refused to grant Solcan’s leave. The court determined that under Article 39 of the Mental Health Act, the safety of others justified Solcan’s continuous detention.

Solcan filed an appeal, arguing that the laws allowing the temporary interruption of a custodial sentence for family reasons should also apply to detentions in psychiatric facilities. The court dismissed Solcan’s appeal, determining that the laws regarding the temporary interruption of imprisonment on family grounds did not apply to Solcan’s circumstances.

Before the ECHR, Solcan alleged that the authorities violated Article 8, the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life, by not allowing her leave of her involuntary psychiatric hospitalization to attend her mother’s funeral. The Court noted that any interference with an individual’s right to respect for her private and family life constituted an Article 8 breach unless the interference was necessary or in accordance with the law.

The Court first determined that the refusal to grant Solcan leave to attend her mother’s funeral was an interference under Article 8. Secondly, the Court found that the interference was an Article 8 breach because it was not necessary. The Court referenced relevant case law, which concluded that the State can only refuse an individual the right to attend a parent’s funeral for compelling reasons and if there is no alternative. The Court stated that neither the first-instance court or the Iaşi County Court accurately assessed Solcan’s situation. Moreover, the Court noted that due to the seriousness of the situation, the domestic courts should have explored alternative ways for Solcan to attend the funeral. The Court stated that the domestic courts failed to consider alternatives like escorted or compassionate leave.  Considering the seriousness regarding Solcan’s request and the domestic courts’ failure to consider alternatives, the Court found that the denial of leave was not necessary.

Ultimately, the Court determined that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention and awarded Solcan six thousand euros for non-pecuniary damages.

For further information, please see:

ECHR Case Law – Failure to Allow a Psychiatric Detainee to Attend her Mother’s Funeral Violates her Right to Family Life – 20 Oct. 2019

European Court of Human Rights – Case of Solcan v. Romania – 8 Oct. 2019

European Court of Human Rights- Guide on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – 31 Aug. 2019