European Union Must Prioritize Human Rights in Central Asia

Target: European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton

Goal: To push a platform of human rights during upcoming visit to Central Asian countries

High Representative of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, should press Central Asian countries to prioritize human rights in her upcoming trip to the region. Home to some of the most oppressive and isolationist governments in the world, Central Asia is plagued by copious human rights infringements to this day. The European Union (EU) must make good on its own commitment to advocate for human rights at home and abroad, and Ashton’s trip is the ideal time to demonstrate this commitment to the world. Call upon High Representative Ashton to push a platform of human rights throughout Central Asia.

In June 2012, the EU adopted a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, pledging to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law as pillars in all of the EU’s foreign relations. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan—collectively Central Asia—are well known for violating human rights, having harassed, arrested, and imprisoned countless peaceful protestors. By meeting with representatives of human rights groups and insisting on a pro-human rights agenda, High Representative Ashton has the opportunity to demand of these Central Asian nations vast improvements on their rights records if they want closer ties with Europe. Ashton should demand the release of those human rights defenders, civil society groups, and opposition activists suffering imprisonment and the lifting of strict government regulations burdening human rights organizations.

The time to act on human rights in this region is now. Kazakhstan has seen in the past two years the degradation of rights to freedom of religion, assembly, association, and a fair trial as well as increased usage of torture. Kyrgyzstan, in the wake of the 2010 ethnic clashes, has suffered from a corrupt judicial system that unfairly skewed favor against ethnic Uzbeks. Tajikistan slowly grows more authoritarian, more and more using methods of torture and failing to throw off systematic corruption. And both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan cut themselves off from the world, silencing critics and destroying civil society.

Clearly, High Representative Ashton has the opportunity to do a great deal of good for the people of these nations. Call upon Ms. Ashton to use her tour of Central Asia as a platform for human rights.


Dear High Representative Ashton,

You have the opportunity during your upcoming trip to Central Asia to demonstrate the European Union’s commitment to human rights in foreign relations by pressuring these countries to improve on their rights records and release countless wrongfully imprisoned activists. Additionally, meeting with human rights leaders will send a clear signal to the world the priority the EU places on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

The countries of Central Asia are plagued by human rights infringements, especially in this day and age. The rights to freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly are under attack. Governments freely employ methods of torture. Corruption runs rampant. Civil society languishes as opposition voices are silenced.

I ask that you seize this opportunity to promote an agenda of human rights, both in Central Asia and throughout the world.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: openDemocracy via Flickr

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