An annual report released by the State Department on Tuesday reflects significant human rights abuses in Azerbaijan – from unlawful and arbitrary killings, torture, degrading treatment by members of the security forces, to politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country – TURAN’s Washington correspondent reports.
The 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which outlines human rights progress in UN member states and countries receiving aid from the U.S., identified abuses such as harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners and other abuses in Azerbaijan.
This year’s report — the 46th annual iteration — also highlights serious restrictions on free expression and the media, including violence against journalists, the criminalization of libel and slander, and harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges; serious restrictions on internet freedom, including blocking of websites; a de facto ban on the rights of peaceful assembly and substantial interference with freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement.
Other abuses include severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation; significant restrictions on worker’s freedom of association; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.
“Backsliding (of respect of human rights) has, unfortunately, continued,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters when introducing the country reports.
Though the reports deal with human rights progress in calendar year 2021, their prologue denounced Russia’s war on Ukraine — which began earlier this year — as evidence of human rights violations globally.
“The information contained in these reports could not be more vital or urgent given ongoing human rights abuses and violations in many countries, continued democratic backsliding on several continents, and creeping authoritarianism that threatens both human rights and democracy — most notably, at present, with Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” the report reads.
Blinken said that an “alarming recession of democracy” and respect for human rights had been ongoing for years, but that the war on Ukraine had drawn global attention to the issues at stake. “In few places have the human consequences of this decline been as stark as they are in the Russian government’s brutal war on Ukraine,” he said.
Blinken also warned that governments are “growing more brazen” in crossing borders “to threaten and attack critics.”
Whether a country is a friend or one with which we have real differences, “the measuring stick we apply is the same,” he said.
That reflects a core principle of human rights: they’re universal: “People of every nationality, race, gender, disability, and age are entitled to these rights no matter what they believe, whom they love, or any other characteristics”
This is “especially important” as a number of governments continue to claim, falsely, that human rights need to be applied based on the local context, Blinken said, adding “little coincidence that many of the same governments are among the worst abusers of human rights.”
In Azerbaijan, report mentions that the “government did not prosecute or punish the majority of officials who committed human rights abuses and acts of corruption; impunity remained a problem”
(Full version of Azerbaijan country report can be found here:
The State Department is required by law to report annually on the status of internationally recognized human and worker rights in all countries that are members of the UN.