U.S. Report Cites Litany Of Abuses In Azerbaijan

U.S. Report Cites Litany Of Abuses In Azerbaijan

The U.S. State Department cited credible reports of inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by members of the security forces, and other related abuses in Azerbaijan, as well as harsh and sometimes life-threatening conditions in the country's prisons, in an annual human rights report released on Tuesday, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.

The 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices also reflect serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, including violence against journalists in Azerbaijan. The authors also flag systemic government corruption, lack of accountability for gender-based violence among other issues..

"We have significant concerns, as pointed out in the Human Rights Report, regarding credible reports of significant human rights abuses, including torture and other physical abuses, political prisoners, and a lack of independent judiciary," State Department's Senior Official for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Robert Gilchrist told TURAN's Washington correspondent during daily briefing.

"Further, law enforcement officials arrested an unprecedented number of people for having alleged links to Iran," he added.

An NGO coalition estimated there were approximately 254 political prisoners and detainees in Azerbaijan as of last December, the report suggests.

When asked by TURAN whether Washington had exhausted its tools to move the needle on securing political prisoners' release in Azerbaijan,  Gilchrist said, the U.S. promotes respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms when meeting with Azerbaijani officials" at all levels, and through U.S. Government statements, statements of international organizations, and meetings with human rights advocates."

"For example, we continue to call publicly for the expeditious release of all unjustly detained political prisoners and detainees, including independent journalists, civil society activists, and government critics.  We also employ social media – for example, the department’s Without Just Cause campaign to release unjustly detained political prisoners, including an Azerbaijani individual, until he was released during the year.  So this remains, of course, something that we’re engaged on," he concluded.

Speaking to reporters in the briefing room, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would continue to make assessments about foreign nations’ records on human rights, and potentially authorize consequences for countries that fall short, regardless of their status as an enemy or partner of the U.S.

“As we’re looking at human rights and the condition of human rights around the world, we apply the same standard to everyone,” he insisted. “That doesn’t change whether the country in question is an adversary or competitor, a friend or an ally.”

This year's Human Rights Reports also outline Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the civil war in Sudan and the Israel-Hamas war as just some of the major global human rights concerns.

"The Kremlin’s disregard and contempt for human rights are on full display in its war against Ukraine," the authors insist. The Report highlights documentation of human rights violations and abuses – some amounting to crimes against humanity – throughout the second year of Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

As for the South Caucasus, the report also flags the Georgian Government’s attempts last year to push a "foreign agent" law.  

TURAN asked State Department's senior human rights official Gilchrist why Washington thought Tbilisi's move was wrong back then, and why is it wrong right now. He replied:  "The U.S. remains deeply concerned that, if enacted, this draft legislation would harm civil society and civil society organizations that are working to improve the lives of Georgian citizens, and will derail Georgia from its European path.  We are equally concerned this draft legislation would impede independent media organizations working to provide access for Georgian citizens to high-quality information."

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