Jonathan Spangenberg

Civil Society Groups in Germany Raise Their Voices against Azerbaijan Hosting COP29

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Although there are five months to go before the scheduled opening of the UN climate summit COP29 in Baku, November 11 to 22, human rights groups in Germany have been mobilizing to demand that the Berlin government act to release political prisoners held in the Azerbaijani capital.

As reported in the daily Frankfurter Rundschau on June 13, a coalition of Armenian and German groups have issued a call for protest: “The Central Council of Armenians in Germany (ZAD), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), and the Working Group Recognition – Against Genocide, for International Understanding (AGA) urgently appeal to the German government and all delegates at COP29 to strongly advocate for the immediate release of all Armenian prisoners in Baku in the run-up to the climate conference.”

In Bonn, from June 3-13, a UN Climate Change preparatory conference for the COP29 took place, with an estimated 6,000 delegates from nations invited to Baku in November. Demonstrators from the ZAD gathered there on June 3 and 7 to protest against Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s “genocidal and fossil energy dictatorship!” Organizers raised banners and posters demanding the release of the political prisoners, as well as prisoners of war, showing their photos and calling out their names.

Defend Armenia’s Sovereignty

In addition to protesting the illegal detention of Armenians from Artsakh, representatives of the organizations have sounded the alarm about continuing threats against the Republic of Armenia. The Frankfurter Rundschau quoted ISHR spokesman Valerio Krüger, who said, “The danger for Armenia is existential,” pointing to the fact that the “Aliyev-Erdogan alliance denies the 1915 Armenian genocide even today.” He added that “Azerbaijani schoolchildren are being indoctrinated about the ‘barbaric Armenian enemies’ …. With the blockade of the Lachin corridor that began in late 2022, the Aliyev regime aimed at starving and driving out the Armenians, many of whom were arrested during the final military aggression, and are still being detained.”

For his part, ZAD chairman Jonathan Spangenberg told the newspaper, “That such an important climate conference is taking place in a country like Azerbaijan is tragic enough. However, Germany does have the opportunity to intervene strongly for the release of all Armenian prisoners in Baku in the run-up to COP29.” Not only does it have the opportunity, but also a “historical responsibility regarding the Armenian genocide,” he added.

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Rundschau journalist Erkan Pehlivam also asked members of the Bundestag (Parliament), and reported the views of two whose parties, the SPD and Green Party, are coalition members of the current federal government. Social Democrat Frank Schwabe, who is also Commissioner for Freedom of Religion and Belief of the Federal Government, has been in the forefront of political opposition to the Azerbaijani dictatorship, speaking out on cases of Baku’s manipulation of elections and bribing European parliament members, not only as election “observers” but also as lobbyists for the Azerbaijani regime.

In response to the journalist’s questions, Schwabe stated, “The development is dramatic. The number of political prisoners quadrupled last year to over 300. Hundreds are also out of the country and continue to be harassed there by Aliyev’s henchmen. This is one of the reasons why Azerbaijan’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been suspended.” He went on to say, “In the spirit of a human rights-oriented foreign policy, Germany will of course take a critical look at the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and will also hold appropriate events before and during the climate conference. I have no doubt about that.”

Max Lucks, a member of the Bundestag from the Green Party, urged the government to take a tougher approach. “We need to do some straight talking with Azerbaijan, and not keep quiet to protect our new energy partnerships. I say this because Azerbaijan has been able to detain Armenians only because we have often been too soft in the past. That is carte blanche for a regime that views freedom as a threat and repression as the solution to its own problems,” Lucks told the Rundschau. And in its repression of journalists, he characterized the numerous arrests as “not only part of everyday politics for several decades, but also part of the DNA of the Azerbaijani regime.” He said he considers such arrests as “a message to us: the imprisoned journalists were also interlocutors of the Council of Europe in the past. So, they are well known in human rights work,” Lucks said.