According to its constitution, Turkmenistan is a secular democracy, although President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov authoritatively, with a small inner circle, controls the country. Berdimuhamedov became president in 2006 and continued as president following the 2017 election that was not considered free nor fair by the international community. Experienced, nonpartisan international observers did not monitor the presidential elections. Parliamentary elections in 2021 were monitored by 440 national observers. During the year a parliamentary secret ballot process selected Berdimuhamedov to be chairperson of the Halk Maslahaty (upper house of parliament), making him head of both the executive and the legislative branches of the government.
The national police and the Ministry of National Security maintained internal security while the military and border security forces were responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by police and prison officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including threats of violence and threats of unjustified arrests or prosecutions, including for criminal libel, against journalists; serious restrictions on internet freedom including censorship and site blocking; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; particularly severe restrictions of religious freedom; severe restrictions on freedom of movement and residence and on the right to leave the country; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on and harassment of international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association; and the existence of forced and child labor.
Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government committed human rights abuses and engaged in corruption with impunity. There were no reported prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses or corruption during the year, although in recent years some officials were arrested and imprisoned on charges of corruption.