Human Rights Watch urges EU to help political prisoners in Central Asia

Catherine Margaret Ashton; photo:
Human Rights Watch has called on EU foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton to speak in defence of political prisoners during her tour of Central Asia.

Ashton will visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan between 26 and 30 November. This is the first visit by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to Central Asia.

The prominent human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW), considers that her trip will test the EU’s vow to make human rights a priority in these countries.

“Promises are good, but what is needed is frank talk to her hosts about the need to free detained human rights defenders and to stop harassing activists if they want closer ties,” EU advocacy director at Human Rights Watch Lotte Leicht said.

HRW believes that Ashton should ensure that priorities related to trade, energy and military cooperation do not rule out issues related to human rights.

In June, the EU ministers adopted a new strategy determining human rights, democracy and the supremacy of law as core elements in the EU’s foreign relations.

Uzbekistan is currently keeping dozens of activists, human rights defenders and journalists in custody unjustly. These include Salijon Abdurahmanov, Dilmurod Sayid, Turgun Agzamov, Muhammad Bekjan, Mamadali Mahmudov and others.

They have been in jail for many years for their beliefs and professional activities, and their colleagues believe they must be released immediately.