Country Report on Terrorism 2016 - Chapter 2 - Turkmenistan

Overview: The Government of Turkmenistan continued its efforts to improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies to counter terrorism, ensure border security, and detect terrorist financing, by working with international organizations and participating in training in these areas. The government did not report any terrorist incidents, and authorities continued to maintain pervasive surveillance of the population.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The country’s legal system as it pertains to counterterrorism is based around the 2003 counterterrorism law that defines which crimes are considered terrorist in nature. This law is supplemented by articles 271-273 of the criminal code, which pertain to terrorist acts and terrorist financing and are used to prosecute terrorism-related offenses.

The State Border, Customs, and Migration Services and the Ministries of National Security, Internal Affairs, and Defense perform counterterrorism functions and share information through an interagency commission. The country’s law enforcement units do not regularly conduct proactive investigations and have a poor record of accountability and respect for human rights. Prosecutors, however, play a significant role in the investigation phase of a case, and specialized law enforcement units exist to conduct investigations. These units possess specialized equipment but often use the equipment only for official ceremonies and demonstrations as opposed to daily operations. Turkmenistan participated in training programs sponsored by the U.S. government and international organizations, which included programs on responding to counterterrorism threats at large public events and proper use of baggage x-ray and passenger screening at aviation checkpoints.

The State Border Service continued to operate frontier garrisons on Turkmenistan’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran, and managed eight radiation portal monitors along its borders donated by the Department of Energy through its Second Line of Defense program. The monitors helped to detect, deter, and prevent the dissemination of explosives and radioactive materials. The State Migration Service possesses biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry. The government has not recently allowed U.S. radiation experts to visit the border region, despite a signed memorandum of understanding to allow such periodic visits to recalibrate the equipment; instead, the government has said it will allow third-country nationals from the region to do this work.

There is significant political will in Turkmenistan to counter terrorism and ensure border security. Corruption, however, hampered effective law enforcement. Additionally, international cooperation with the government can be hampered by the government’s insistence on an official policy of neutrality and by a bureaucracy that operates according to opaque rules, which frequently deem information traditionally made available to the public to be “state secrets.”

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Turkmenistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Financial Monitoring Department (FMD) of the Ministry of Finance, the country’s financial intelligence unit, was created in 2010. In 2016, Turkmenistan expressed interest in gaining admission to the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

While Turkmenistan criminalizes terrorist financing in accordance with international standards, there were no reported prosecutions of terrorist financing cases in 2016. The FMD monitors and regulates alternative remittance services, requires the collection of data for wire transfers, and monitors non-profit organizations to prevent misuse and terrorist financing.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: Turkmenistan's law enforcement and security agencies exercise strict control over the population. The government views some forms of Islam with suspicion. Since the country's independence, mosques and Muslim clergy have been state‑sponsored and financed. Any violent extremist groups existing in Turkmenistan would be small, underground, and disparate. The government imprisoned an unknown number of members of Muslim groups it categorizes as “extremist” for advocating theologically different interpretations of Islamic religious doctrine. The authorities have referred to these persons as “Wahhabis.” According to the non-governmental organization Forum 18, prisoners categorized as “Wahhabis” are confined to special sections of prisons and are not allowed to receive visits or exchange correspondence with the outside world.

Rather than create effective counter-messaging, the government routinely controls the importation, publication, and dissemination of religious literature.

International and Regional Cooperation: Turkmenistan supports some regional and international efforts to fight terrorism. Law enforcement officials participated in Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and UN Office of Drugs and Crime training on border security. Government officials also participated in regional training on radicalism and countering violent extremism provided by the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia. Turkmenistan continued to participate in the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Center.