European Parliament calls for sanctions against officials in Azerbaijan
European Parliament report on Azerbaijan
The European Parliament adopted the report “Relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan“, prepared by Zeljana Zovko, a Croatian deputy and rapporteur on Azerbaijan, by a majority vote. In the document, the European Parliament calls for sanctions against officials in Azerbaijan involved in the restrictions of human rights.
- Declining economic freedom in Georgia
- “Baku is left with no other choice” – comments from Azerbaijan
- “Azerbaijan has territorial designs on Armenia” – Nikol Pashinyan
The European deputies who spoke during the hearings criticized the government of Azerbaijan over failure to fulfill international obligations, and a growing number of violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights.
During the voting, 50 MEPs voted for, six against. Four deputies abstained.
The report details issues of human rights, media, political prisoners, LGBTİQ+, violence against women, relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and transportation of energy resources to the West.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has strengthened the EU’s cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sector. But the EU cannot turn a blind eye to violations of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan,” the report says.
It calls on Azerbaijan to remove restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, ensure basic human rights, and release political prisoners.
The report notes that at times there are bloody clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, despite the ceasefire agreement signed after the 44-day war.
The European Parliament says that Azerbaijan has “occupied the sovereign territories of Armenia”, and “since the end of 2022, has interfered with the movement of civilian transport along the Lachin corridor, which negatively affected the provision of this region with food and medicine.”
The report also emphasizes that, according to the assurances of Azerbaijani officials, there are no barriers to the delivery of medicines and products to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Prisoners of war
The report states that after the clashes in September 2022, allegations of “physical violence and humiliating actions against Armenian prisoners of war” were heard.
“It seems that the Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region are unwilling or unable to stop possible attacks from the Azerbaijani side, as if after the start of Russia’s criminal war of occupation against Ukraine, the presence of peacekeepers in the region became less perceptible,” the document emphasizes.
The impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on the region
The European Parliament points out that the war in Ukraine has complicated the security situation in the South Caucasus.
The document requires both parties to fulfill their obligations:
“It is possible to achieve the development of both countries, guarantees from the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia for peaceful coexistence, respect for the security and rights of minorities. Because the armed conflicts between the two countries deal a catastrophic blow to the cultural, religious and historical heritage of the region.”
Human rights situation
The EP report states that Azerbaijan’s performance on human rights and respect for fundamental rights is still very poor.
Before deepening the political and energy partnership with the EU countries, there is a need to solve all such problems:
“Azerbaijani authorities are acting contrary to the Constitution of Azerbaijan, which ensures freedom of assembly and association. By seriously and methodically restricting freedoms, the Azerbaijani authorities have created conditions under which meetings are actually banned. The space for independent activism, critical journalism and the political activity of the opposition is severely limited. There are laws and regulations that restrict the activities of activists, human rights defenders, journalists and independent groups, and there are political arrests.”
"I was left chained to the bed without food and water for three days"
The report of public association “The Center for Investigations against Torture” dated June 5, 2022 states that prisons in the country have turned into torture chambers: “In these institutions, prisoners encounter severe torture, and sometimes die.”
The document notes that the country still lacks an independent judiciary. There is widespread interference with the work and independence of lawyers.
Police also force confessions in prison, and abuse is rife: “Restrictions are applied to those arrested to meet with their families and lawyers. They are deprived of medical care.”
Media, harassment, Pegasus spyware
The EP report also speaks of the situation with independent media, the persecution of journalists.
It is reported that the Azerbaijani authorities systematically put pressure on independent media and restrict freedom of expression. Political opponents of the government, human rights defenders and journalists are targeted for hard speech and politically motivated violence:
“They are being detained without any reason. Cases are not properly investigated. In July 2021, the use of the Pegasus spyware to harass journalists was reported.”
Position on LGBTİQ+
The document notes that Azerbaijan lacks legislation aimed at protecting LGBTİQ+ people:
“Hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTİQ+ continue in Azerbaijan, despite the fact that in 2022 PACE adopted a resolution on the violation of the rights of LGBTİQ+ in the South Caucasus. Appeals were made to the authorities to prevent violations of the legislative acts.”
Violence against women
The document of the European Parliament states that Azerbaijan is not fulfilling its obligation to prevent violence against women, investigate such facts and punish those responsible, and does not take effective steps in this direction.
The European Parliament says that corruption is also widespread in Azerbaijan.
The document recalls the corrupt nature of the activities of some former PACE deputies in favor of Azerbaijan, published on April 15, 2018.
Azerbaijan’s place in the energy market
The document notes that Azerbaijan occupies a strategic position in the global energy market of the South Caucasus. Also in recent years it has become an exporter of strategic energy resources for the EU:
“Taking into account the need to diversify the provision of energy to the European Union, Azerbaijan occupies a more important place in this role every year.”
It is emphasized that the European Union supports wider integration with Azerbaijan through the European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership initiative; The EU is Azerbaijan’s main trading partner and the EU supports Azerbaijan’s accession to the WTO, as well as the bifurcation, digitalization and decarbonization of the Azerbaijani economy.
The document emphasizes that despite all this, the EU should not turn a blind eye to human rights violations, recurring ceasefire violations at the border, arrests, and media restrictions in Azerbaijan.
Call for sanctions
In the adopted document, the European Parliament calls for the application of sanctions against officials in Azerbaijan involved in gross violations of human rights, in particular against representatives of law enforcement agencies who allow such measures:
“Azerbaijan should not allow censorship, Internet freedom laws should comply with European standards.”
The European Parliament calls on the Azerbaijani government to have a close dialogue with civil society, to implement reforms that ensure democracy and respect for human rights.
The document criticizes the persecution at home and abroad of journalists, political activists, human rights defenders, the use of the criminal code for revenge.
The report calls on the Azerbaijani government to ensure people’s right to freedom of assembly.
So far the government of Azerbaijan and officials of the country have not commented on the report.