Sen. Edward Markey

Senators Markey, Cassidy Introduce Resolution Seeking Information on Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Violations

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WASHINGTON — Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a bipartisan resolution on February 1 to require that the Secretary of State provide a report on Azerbaijan’s human rights practices, including concerning allegations of human rights violations committed against ethnic Armenians, such as unlawful killings, torture, restrictions on freedom of movement, the illegal detention of political prisoners, and ethnic cleansing. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-30) introduced a companion version of the resolution in the House of Representatives.

Since Azerbaijan’s large-scale military offensive on September 19, 2023, against the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians have fled to Armenia in fear of further persecution. Before the attack, Azerbaijani forces blockaded the Lachin corridor, the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and the outside world, to prevent imports of essential goods, humanitarian convoys, and all passages of food, fuel, and medicine from the Red Cross to the ethnic Armenians that lived in the territory.

“The need to hold Azerbaijan’s government accountable and forge a peaceful path forward is long overdue,” said Senator Markey. “Military action has never been the solution to peace and stability in Nagorno-Karabakh. This resolution puts pressure on Azerbaijan’s government to uphold human rights and stop committing crimes against ethnic Armenians in the region. We must protect the will, the rights, and the bedrock freedoms of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

“Azerbaijan has already been bulldozing holy sites and starving Armenian communities. This is the type of country the Biden administration wants supplying LNG to Europe instead of Louisiana natural gas?” said Dr. Cassidy.

“The Administration’s continuing support for the Aliyev regime, which regularly commits atrocities and human rights violations, simply isn’t in line with our values as Americans. Given Azerbaijan’s egregious military action against Artsakh on September 19, it is imperative that President Biden and Secretary Blinken reconsider our aid policies,” said Representative Schiff. “This resolution aims to gather information on human rights abuses and war crimes being committed by Azerbaijan and to halt future aid. As a country that champions human rights, we must ensure our foreign aid reflects our commitment to core values and does not contribute to further violence against the Armenian people in Artsakh. This resolution is a step towards aligning our international aid with the ethical standards and interests of the United States.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy

Within 30 days of enacting the resolution, the State Department would need to produce a report that includes:

  • A description of all steps the State Department has taken to promote the protection of human rights by the Azerbaijan government, including any steps taken to discourage practices that are inimical to the protection of human rights and to publicly or privately call attention or disassociate the U.S. and its security assistance to any Azerbaijani violations of human rights.
  • An assessment of whether any extraordinary measures exist that necessitate the continuation of security assistance to Azerbaijan and, if such circumstances do exist, the extent to which assistance should be continued.
  • An assessment on the likelihood that U.S assistance has or will be used in support of Azerbaijani aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh, the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, or in relation to the conflict with Armenia.
  • A description of U.S. government efforts to adhere to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prevents U.S. assistance to any security unit against credible allegations of human rights violations.
  • And a determination of whether Azerbaijani officials found responsible in human rights abuses have met the criteria for sanctions and a description of any action the U.S. government is taking to implement sanctions under the Globa Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

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Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The resolution is endorsed by Freedom House, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), National Council of Churches (NCC), the Arms Control Association (ACA), Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Center for International Policy (CIP), Peace Action, Common Defense, Action Corps, Foreign Policy for America (FP4A), Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action, Women for Weapons Trade Transparency, Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding & Policy, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), In Defense of Christians (IDC), American Friends of Kurdistan (AFK), Global ARM, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), and the Anglican Office for Government & International Affairs.

“This resolution marks an important step toward Congress reclaiming its long-neglected civilian protection oversight responsibilities when it comes to U.S. arms transfers and military aid. In Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor and subsequent armed attacks brought about a humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of civilians as well as mass displacement. Congress is right to invoke Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act to ask serious questions about Azerbaijan’s human rights and civilian protection record and the impact of US arms transfers,” said Annie Shiel, U.S. Advocacy Director of Center for Civilians in Conflict.

“Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh’s entire indigenous Armenian population last year was a modern-day genocide the U.S. had every opportunity to prevent – but instead enabled through the reckless provision of military assistance to Baku’s authoritarian regime. The ANCA joins with coalition partners in welcoming Senator Markey’s leadership in restoring much-needed Congressional oversight of U.S. military assistance through the enforcement of Section 502B(c) – an underutilized statute that can help reassert human rights to its rightful place at the center of U.S. foreign policy,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of Armenian National Committee of America.

“The Human Rights Foundation supports the U.S. Senate resolution requesting the U.S. Secretary of State to produce a comprehensive report scrutinizing the dictatorial regime of Azerbaijan’s dismal human rights record. For three decades, the Aliyev dynastic dictatorship has systematically rigged elections and committed gross human rights violations, including the persecution and wrongful imprisonment of opposition figures and journalists, as well as the torture and extrajudicial killing of Armenian POWs and civilian detainees in the context of the armed conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It’s long overdue that the United States reassess its military assistance to the Aliyev regime,” said Javier El-Hage, Chief Legal and Policy Officer of Human Rights Foundation.

“CIP applauds Senator Markey and his colleagues for seeking accountability for U.S. arms sales to Azerbaijan, whose government has an abysmal record of human right violations, including a military campaign resulting in the forced displacement of civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The U.S. government must take the enforcement of its own arms laws and our security partners’ obligations under international humanitarian law seriously in order to achieve President Biden’s own stated goal of upholding human rights and a rules-based order in our foreign policy,” said Nancy Okail, President and CEO of Center for International Policy.

“Women for Weapons Trade Transparency urges Congress to invoke section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act via this resolution in light of Azerbaijan’s dismal record of human rights violations and war crimes. Congress must utilize their oversight powers to prevent U.S. assistance from being used in such violations and to ensure that U.S. weapons and funding are not hindering freedom of expression, threatening the operations of independent media, or aiding in arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecution,” said Lillian Mauldin, Board Member of Women for Weapons Trade Transparency.

“This resolution is an important effort to uphold U.S. laws requiring an end to military aid to abusive governments like Azerbaijan. It’s imperative that our government consistently and comprehensively enforce its own laws to all recipients of U.S. military aid,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now.

“We thank Senators Markey and Cassidy for holding Azerbaijan accountable for committing gross human rights violations against both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. From committing genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh to attacking and illegally occupying Armenia and illegally detaining Armenian prisoners, Azerbaijan’s brutal dictatorship is not worthy of U.S. taxpayer support. The U.S. should stand on the right side of history and sanction the Aliyev regime for its unacceptable behavior,” said Timothy Jemal, President of Global ARM.

“We commend Senator Markey and welcome this bipartisan measure to hold Azerbaijan accountable for gross human rights violations against the Armenian people,” said Bryan Ardouny, Executive Director at Armenian Assembly of America.

In September 2022, Senator Markey and his colleagues led a letter calling for the U.S. to cease any security assistance to Azerbaijan until Armenia and Azerbaijan reach a permanent resolution that would ensure peace and stability in Nagorno-Karabakh. In November 2020, Senator Markey, then a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his concern about the Russian-brokered agreement signed between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia to end the fighting in Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding areas. In October 2020, he urged then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to seek an immediate ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan while pushing for a negotiated resolution to the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh.

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