234 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6460
Hon. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
May 15, 2012


WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (US Helsinki Commission) announced today a briefing on the situation of political prisoners in Central Asia:

“Political Prisoners in Central Asia”
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
2:00 p.m.
Room 2203 Rayburn House Office Building

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have some of the highest numbers of political prisoners in the former Soviet Union. While each country in Central Asia is different, there are worrying trends among all five. In Uzbekistan, human rights activists, journalists, and members of certain religious groups fall victim to restrictive laws and policies. In Turkmenistan, would-be political opposition and human rights activists are targeted. In Kyrgyzstan, trials following ethnic violence in June 2010 have been biased against ethnic Uzbeks and human rights activists supporting them. Tajikistan has enacted a restrictive religion law, and Kazakhstan has arrested political opposition figures in the wake of a violent crackdown on protesters late last year.

While some governments claim that ensuring stability and fighting extremism are paramount, laws restricting political participation, independent journalism, civil society, and freedom of religion may have the opposite effect. This briefing will look at these trends, as well as the conditions under which such prisoners are kept.

Panelists Scheduled to Appear:

Dr. Sanjar Umarov, Chairman of the Sunshine Coalition and former political prisoner

Cathy Cosman, Senior Policy Analyst, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

*Additional panelists may be added.


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Chairman Chris Smith meets with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic in Vienna, Austria. (Feb. 2015)