Under Secretary Shannon should raise human rights issues during his upcoming visit to Central Asia.

Today the Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent an open letter to U.S. Department of State Under Secretary Thomas Shannon, asking him to raise human rights issues during his upcoming visit to Central Asia. On October 24-29, Mr. Thomas Shannon will visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and should seize the opportunity to speak out about human rights in the region, the NHC says in the letter.

The NHC especially asks Mr. Thomas Shannon to urge the authorities in Kazakhstan to immediately release peaceful activists Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan and drop all charges against them. Bokayev and Ayan currently stand trial on charges that are trumped-up in retaliation for their peaceful activism, the NHC says.

Commenting on the official visit by the high-level diplomat, Marius Fossum, the NHC Regional Representative in Central Asia, said: “Now is an ideal time for Kazakhstan’s international partners to link closer cooperation to commitment to international human rights standards. With next year’s World Fair, “Expo 2017”, scheduled to take place in Astana, the trial against Bokayev and Ayan is a sobering reminder to the international community that Kazakhstan’s rights record remains problematic.”

In the letter the NHC also asks Mr. Thomas Shannon to voice concerns over human rights issues in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In particular the NHC asks Mr. Shannon to urge the respective authorities to release political activist Azimjan Askarov in Kyrgyzstan and journalist Muhammmad Bekjanov in Uzbekistan.

Read the full letter here.