The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to visit a prison for the first time in Turkmenistan, turkmenistan.ru, a semi-official news agency reported. A delegation headed by ICRC regional representative Francois Blansi visited Ashgabat from July 10-16, following up on a previous trip in June:
During its visit, the delegation also visited one of the institutions of the system of the Interior Ministry of Turkmenistan and familiarized itself with conditions for incarceration of persons there.
No more details were available about the location or types of prisoners, and the ICRC has not made a statement, evidently in keeping with its usual principles of confidentiality regarding prison visits. The official government web site did not mention the prison visit although it noted the ICRC visit and meetings with various ministries.
The ICRC has been meeting with Turkmen authorities for a number of years in an attempt to gain permission to enter places of incarceration, but has been refused, reportedly on the issue of whether the standard ICRC condition could be met involving confidential meetings with prisoners without guards present.
Yet a condition that the European Union maintained for some years for establishing trade relations with Turkmenistan was permission for the ICRC to visit prisons. Ashgabat may be moving on this issue at long last in time for a vote later this month by the European Parliament for full trade and aid relations through then the Partnership Cooperation Agreement.
No doubt it will be disturbing to citizens of Turkmenistan to know of the ICRC's presence in their country during the aftermath of the explosion in Abadan, one of the worst disasters of their history. Yet the humanitarian organization did not visit the area and it is not even known if it even requested to do so; the delegation in Ashgabat was not a relief mission.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent a message of condolence about the Abadan explosion and offered its assistance in coping with the casualties and destruction of the town, but Ashgabat did not answer and the notice was not published in the state media, gundogar.org reported.