State Department: Impunity remains a problem in Azerbaijan

The State Department on Wednesday criticized the Azerbaijani government for failing to prosecute or punish most officials who committed human rights abuses. “Impunity remained a problem,” the Department said in an annual world-wide survey of human rights that spotlighted abuses by U.S. allies and adversaries alike, TURAN’s US correspondent reports.

The report cited a range of other human-rights issues in Azerbaijan, including unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; criminalization of libel; physical attacks on journalists; arbitrary interference with privacy; interference in the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association through intimidation; incarceration on questionable charges; harsh physical abuse of selected activists, journalists, and secular and religious opposition figures; blocking of websites; restrictions on freedom of movement for a growing number of journalists and activists; refoulement; severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; police detention and torture of LGBTI individuals; and worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

This year’s report evaluates the practices of roughly 200 countries and territories and it paints a dark picture of “appalling violations of human life, liberty, and dignity” that happen every day in many parts of the world. The department has exposed such occurrences every year since 1977.

Speaking to reporters, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wished the countries evaluated in this year”s report had spotless or even improved records, but he noted that it was “simply not the case.”

“Even some of our friends, allies, and partners around the world have human rights violations. We document those reports with equal force,” he said. “Our aim is always to identify human rights challenges and use American influence and power to move every nation toward better, more consistent human rights practices.

Ambassador Michael Kozak, senior bureau official at the State Department”s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, told reporters that Washington’s engaging with countries with poor human rights records “does not mean we are approving of or accepting of their behavior”. The U.S. he said, is trying to use its engagement to make improvements: “Sometimes we”re engaging for the purpose of trying to get them to change their human rights practices, sometimes it”s because we”re trying to get them to stop threatening their neighbors.

In Azerbaijan, according to the report, nongovernmental estimates of political prisoners and detainees ranged from 128 to 156 in 2018. According to human rights organizations, dozens of government critics remained incarcerated for politically motivated reasons as of November 23.

The full version of the report can be found here:

Alex Raufoglu

Washington, D.C,