Turkmenistan remains a transshipment route for traffickers seeking to smuggle contraband to Turkish, Russian and European markets from neighboring drug-producing countries, primarily Afghanistan and Iran. Turkmenistan is not a major producer or source country for illegal drugs or precursor chemicals. Turkmenistan shares a rugged and remote 744-kilometer border with Afghanistan as well as a 992-kilometer boundary with Iran. Most of its illegal drug seizures occur along Turkmenistan's borders with Afghanistan and Iran.
Counternarcotics efforts are carried out by the Ministry of National Security (MNB), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), the State Customs Service (SCS), the State Border Guards Service (SBS), the State Agency for the Registration of Foreigners, and the Prosecutor General's Office. The State Counternarcotics Coordination Commission (SCCC) at the Cabinet of Ministers is an inter-departmental body responsible for coordinating the activities of concerned government departments. It has responsibility for overseeing implementation of the government's new "National Program on Fighting Illegal Drug Trafficking and Assistance to Drug and Psychotropic Substance Addicts for 2006-2010." According to Government of Turkmenistan statistics, law enforcement officers seized a total of 1,551 kg of illegal narcotics in the first six months of 2006. The 2006 seizure statistic is three times greater than the 548 kg reported for the same period in 2005. The Government of Turkmenistan (GOT) continues to publicly commit itself to counternarcotics efforts and has increased cooperation with international organizations and diplomatic missions present in Turkmenistan; however, its law enforcement agencies are hampered by a widespread lack of resources, training and equipment. Mounting evidence, together with increased contacts with government officials and non-governmental organizations, strongly suggests that domestic drug abuse is steadily increasing, although concrete statistics are not publicly available. Turkmenistan remains vulnerable to financial fraud and money laundering schemes due to its dual exchange rate. Turkmenistan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
Turkmenistan remains a key transit country for the smuggling of narcotics and precursor chemicals. The flow of opiates from Afghanistan, such as heroin, opium and other opium-based drugs destined for markets in Turkey, Russia and Europe, enter Turkmenistan from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The bulk of the GOT's law enforcement resources and manpower are directed toward stopping the flow of drugs from Afghanistan and Iran. Common methods of transporting illegal narcotics include concealment in cargo or passenger vehicles, deliveries by pedestrian carriers or animal transport, and in some cases by concealment in the body cavities or stomach of humans and animals. Turkmenistan's law enforcement efforts at the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border are focused more on interdicting smuggled commercial goods than on narcotics, thus providing an attractive transshipment route. Commercial truck traffic from Iran continues to be heavy, and Caspian Sea ferry traffic from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and Russia continues to be a viable smuggling route. On Dec. 21, 2006, Turkmenistan's leader, Sapurmurat Niyazor, aka "Father of the Turkmen" passed away. Counternarcotics policies are expected to continue without significant changes under his successor.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2006
Policy Initiatives. In April, the GOT adopted a multi-year national plan for counternarcotics activities, the "National Program on Fighting Illegal Drug Trafficking and Assistance to Drug and Psychotropic Substance Addicts for 2006-2010" (2006-2010 National Drug Program). This program supersedes the 2001-2005 National Drug Program, and includes: increased regional cooperation to prevent drug and precursor trafficking, prevention of drug-related crimes committed by minors, enhanced technology-based border security, enhanced training for law enforcement agencies to combat organized crime, increased counterterrorism efforts, and training on drug trafficking and money laundering. The national program also addresses drug demand issues. The plan has a research and treatment of drug addiction and HIV/AIDS component and includes a national survey on the spread of drug use and HIV/AIDS within target populations. The plan calls for the creation of drug abuse "hot lines." The government specifically includes in the 2006-2010 National Drug Program continued cooperation with USG programs and cites continued cooperation with international organizations and diplomatic missions. In August 2004, the GOT introduced a new draft criminal procedure code in an effort to transform the Soviet era criminal justice sector; the parliament has not yet adopted the new code.
Law Enforcement Efforts. The GOT continues to give priority to counternarcotics law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies with counternarcotics enforcement authority received equipment and training from the USG and international organizations. In 2006, members of diplomatic missions and international organizations were invited to witness two inter-agency drug destruction events. The government is enhancing border security efforts and opened a new border crossing station near the capital Ashgabat (on the Iranian border) in July 2006. The new station is fully equipped with modern instruments including a line scan x-ray to identify narcotic substances, explosives and weapons. The USG built one new border crossing checkpoint facility on the Iranian border and will complete construction of a second facility on the border with Afghanistan in mid-2007, and the EU is planning on building a new checkpoint on the border with Uzbekistan. In May, President Niyazov publicly increased pressure on law enforcement officials by admonishing them to interdict drug smugglers in order to safeguard Turkmenistan's youth. The State Customs Service solicited support from international and diplomatic missions to develop and improve a customs training facility. The U.S. and U.K. governments co-sponsor a customs-hosted interagency English language course to equip law enforcement officers with language skills requisite for participation in international conferences and training. Turkmenistan's border forces are moderately effective in detecting and interdicting narcotics. The government reported that 1,551 kg of illegal narcotics were seized on Turkmenistan's borders during the first six months of 2006. In March, the local press reported that a special task force seized 830 kg of opium and 203 kg of hashish from illegal border crossers near the Sarahs border unit on the Turkmenistan-Iranian border. In May, the State Border Service, together with the Ministry of National Security, seized 34 kg of opium and 2 kg of heroin along the southern border. In October, law enforcement officers seized 50 kg of opium and 3 kg of hashish and detained two suspected traffickers while killing a third person attempting to smuggle illegal drugs across the Iranian border into Turkmenistan. All three suspected criminals are Iranian. Obtaining detailed information about individual drug cases remains challenging. The "Adalat" (Justice) weekly newspaper is the only local paper that occasionally publishes information on law enforcement agencies' activities related to illicit drug trade activities.
Corruption. The GOT does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic and psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances as a matter of government policy. However, law enforcement officials' low salaries, combined with their broad general powers, foster an environment in which corruption occurs. A palpable general distrust of the police by the public, fueled by evidence of police officers soliciting bribes, suggests a problematic level of corruption in law enforcement. Payments to lower level officials at border crossing points to facilitate passage of smuggled goods frequently occur. Reports persist that senior Turkmenistan officials are directly linked to the drug trade. In March 2007, the former Prosecutor General was accused of taking bribes and abusing the powers of her office by allowing her relatives to participate in the drug trade. In contrast to 2005, there were no arrests of law enforcement officials for complicity in the drug trade.
Agreements and Treaties. Turkmenistan is a party to the 1998 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Turkmenistan and the United States signed a letter of agreement for provision of USG counternarcotics assistance in September 2001. In July 2006, the presidents of Turkmenistan and Iran signed a joint communique confirming their countries' readiness to fight illegal drug trafficking, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Turkmenistan also is a party to the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its protocols against migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and Illegal Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms.
Cultivation/Production. Turkmenistan is not a significant producer of illegal drugs, although small-scale opium and marijuana cultivation is thought to occur in remote mountain and desert areas. Each spring, the GOT conducts limited aerial inspections of outlying areas in search of illegal poppy cultivation. Upon discovery, law enforcement officials eradicate opium crops. According to the State Counternarcotics Coordination Committee, the Government of Turkmenistan holds Operation "Mak" ("Poppy") twice a year to locate and destroy poppy fields.
Drug Flow/Transit. Turkmenistan remains a primary transit corridor for smuggling organizations seeking to transport opium and heroin to markets in Turkey, Russia and the whole of Europe, and for the shipment of precursor chemicals to Afghanistan. There are land, air and sea routes through Turkmenistan's territory. Officially released 2006 data shows an increased amount of seized narcotics, but lack of earlier data and comparable statistics from a non-government organization makes analysis incomplete and the reliability of statistics questionable. The government's efforts to improve border crossing stations during 2006 could lead to higher seizure rates or the opening of new trafficking routes if traffickers adapt. Turkmenistan's two major border control agencies, the SCS and the SBS, have received increased attention and funding for their drug enforcement duties. Systemic deficits in necessary equipment, training, resources, and facilities will take time to improve. Border crossing points with rudimentary inspection facilities for screening vehicle traffic and without reliable communications systems have been identified by the Government of Turkmenistan and are being improved. However, Turkmenistan is likely to continue to serve as a major transit route for illegal drugs and precursors.
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. The president's opening statement read at the Turkmenistan-UNODC Regional Counternarcotics Conference in 2005 was the first high-level admission that drug use was a concern for the government. Since then, government officials have openly made reference to what anecdotal evidence suggests is a chronic domestic problem. Currently, the Ministry of Health operates seven drug treatment clinics: one in the capital Ashgabat, one in Serdar city, and one in each of the five provincial administrative centers. Narcotics addicts can receive treatment at these clinics without revealing their identity and all clinic visits are kept confidential. Drug addiction is a prosecutable crime with jail sentences for convicted persons, although judicial officials usually sentence addicts to treatment. Although not yet implemented, there are internationally funded prevention programs under consideration by the government. Within the framework of the 2006-2010 National Drug Program, President Niyazov signed a resolution in June 2006 approving a list of drug addiction preventive measures to provide necessary aid to drug addicts.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Bilateral Cooperation. The U.S.-Turkmenistan bilateral relationship on law enforcement issues, most specifically counternarcotics programs, continues to improve. The GOT supported USG initiatives to enhance law enforcement institutions and training programs, and has expanded the relationship to include the construction of infrastructure along the border. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense funded the construction of a new border crossing checkpoint station on the Iranian Border (Altyn Asyr), and is currently constructing an additional station on the border with Afghanistan (Imamnazar). Through INL, EXBS and DOD programs, the USG is providing necessary equipment and quality training to make the GOT a more effective partner in counternarcotics issues. INL has an on-going relationship with the Government of Turkmenistan through a MVD forensic lab project, the funding of two UNODC projects on the border with Afghanistan, the funding of English language programs for law enforcement officers working to combat narcotics trafficking, and training port security officials to locate contraband. The USG has also funded counternarcotics training for law enforcement officers working with canines. In March, the first Amendment to the INL LOA's was signed providing additional funding to begin a regional counternarcotics training program for MVD officers, a criminal justice sector reform project, a maritime security project and an English language training course for law enforcement officers. The EXBS program continues to directly benefit counternarcotics objectives by providing search and seizure training and enhancing physical border security.
Road Ahead. Staying engaged with all Turkmenistan's counternarcotics agencies is necessary to encourage a successful effort against narcotics trafficking. Bilateral cooperation is expected to continue, and the USG will expand counternarcotics law enforcement agency training at the working level. As both Turkmenistan and U.S. officials identify areas for improved counternarcotics efforts, the USG will provide an appropriate, integrated and coordinated response. The USG also will encourage the GOT to institute long-term demand reduction efforts and will foster supply reduction through interdiction training, law enforcement institution building, the promotion of regional cooperation, and an exchange of drug-related intelligence.
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|Title Annotation:||Europe and Central Asia|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Article Type:||Country overview|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|