US Congress Targets Azerbaijan with Sanctions Over Alleged Human Rights Abuses

The US Congress targeting Azerbaijan with sanctions deals another blow to Baku’s foreign policy stance. pewresearch.org

 

April 23, 2024

Reports emerging from journalist Alekper Raufoglu on social media indicate that the US Congress is poised to introduce the Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act of 2024. This bill aims to address alleged human rights violations and the erosion of the rule of law within Azerbaijan.

According to the proposed legislation, which targets 40 Azerbaijani government officials, including military, security personnel, and judges, individuals allegedly involved in acts of torture and other unlawful behaviors will face sanctions. However, specific details regarding the accusations against each listed official are yet to be fully elucidated.

For instance, while military and prosecution officials may be implicated in allegations related to torture, the specific allegations against individuals like Samir Nuruyev, the head of the presidential administration, remain unclear within the bill.

Speculation abounds among observers regarding the potential fate of the bill within Congress. Some suggest that its release might be a strategic maneuver to exert pressure on the Azerbaijani government for concessions, pointing to the recent release of jailed politician Gubad Ibadoglu following the leak of the draft.

Others, like former diplomat Emin Shaig Ibrahimov, caution against the selective nature of the bill. They argue that including prominent Azerbaijani military figures who played crucial roles in reclaiming occupied territories could inadvertently bolster the government’s position. This perspective accuses the US Congress of aligning with Armenia and penalizing generals esteemed by the Azerbaijani public.

Social media discourse highlights that the individuals listed in the bill draw largely from a report by Senator Chris Smith, who previously accused numerous Azerbaijani officials of human rights violations during the 2020 Karabakh conflict.

Irrespective of its ultimate outcome, even in its draft form, the bill represents a notable foreign policy challenge for Azerbaijan. The United States has maintained Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which prohibits official government assistance to Azerbaijan due to its handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Additionally, the European Parliament recently passed a resolution condemning Azerbaijan’s human rights record and its voting rights were suspended within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Critics argue that Azerbaijan’s foreign policy apparatus, characterized by individuals like presidential advisor Hikmat Hajiyev and Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, is plagued by corruption and incompetence. This, they contend, continues to erode the country’s international standing and undermines the authority of President Ilham Aliyev on the global stage.

Further exacerbating Azerbaijan’s foreign policy challenges, relations with countries like France and Iran have deteriorated significantly. Both nations have recalled their ambassadors from Azerbaijan—France for consultations and Iran due to an interview involving its envoy with an unveiled Azerbaijani host, which contradicts Iran’s Sharia law. Bilateral relations with these countries continue to sour, adding to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic woes.

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