Turkmenistan, widely considered one of the world's most repressive countries, on Monday faced a barrage of criticism from diplomats gathered in Geneva to review its human rights record.
Turkmenistan's deputy foreign minister Vepa Hajiyev took the floor at the beginning of the second UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights situation to insist his country had made great strides since it was first reviewed in 2008, listing a long line of new laws aimed to protect rights.
While acknowledging positive achievements, including the release of some political prisoners and the introduction of a new media law guaranteeing freedom of expression, most of the 80 countries that commented on Turkmenistan's report stressed there was still much work to do.
While welcoming the new media freedom law, the representative of Sweden, among others, questioned what the government was doing to ensure that it was put into practice.
US representative Aleksandra Needham voiced concern about reports of excessive force and torture used by security forces "to intimidate citizens and coerce confessions."
"We are particularly concerned by the detention, harassment, and intimidation of journalists, members of religious and ethnic minorities, and civil society representatives who criticise the government or advocate reform," she continued.
She and many others urged the country to among other things ensure that perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice.
Many countries also urged Turkmenistan to improve the situation of women and to improve conditions in its prisons, while others highlighted that UN special rapporteurs had made numerous outstanding requests to visit the country to monitor the human rights situation there.