US Congress to Introduce Bill for Sanctions on Azerbaijan

A group of lawmakers in the US Congress is set to introduce a bill this week for the US to consider sanctioning an array of different Azeri figures over their perceived repression of pro-democracy and opposition activists in Azerbaijan, as well as Azerbaijan’s continued detention of Armenian prisoners.

The Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act of 2024

This week, a bipartisan group of US Congress members, headed by Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV), is set to introduce the Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act of 2024, a bill that will call for the US to consider sanctioning 40 different Azeri figures.

The names of those potentially being sanctioned has not been released, but they are reported to involve political figures, prosecutors, and some of those involved in Azerbaijan’s recent seizure of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

If the bill passes, US President Joe Biden will be given 180 days to determine whether the Azeri figures outlined in the act qualify for sanctions under preexisting US legislation, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, as well as the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.

The bill also expresses concern for Armenian prisoners still held by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan continues to hold Armenian prisoners of war from the 2020 44-Day War, as well as various political figures and civilians detained from the separatist Republic of Artsakh during Azerbaijan’s seizure of Artsakh. The detention of political figures, which includes several former presidents of the self-declared republic, has been condemned by a number of different countries.

“Azerbaijan’s continued detainment, torture, extrajudicial execution, and other serious human rights violations against prisoners of war and captured civilians calls into serious question their commitment to human rights and ability to negotiate an equitable, lasting peace settlement” -An excerpt of the draft bill

Of particular concern is Azerbaijan’s repression of pro-democracy and opposition activists. Although Azerbaijan holds elections, the legitimacy of their elections is oftentimes called into question, and the nation is referred to by opponents as a dictatorship.

The country is headed by President Ilham Aliyev, the son of former President Heydar Aliyev. Ilham has headed the country since 2003, when he won an election in order to succeed his father.

Heydar Aliyev had seized control of Azerbaijan in a military coup in 1993, two years after Azerbaijan had gained independence amidst the fall of the Soviet Union. Prior to this, he headed the Azeri SSR from 1969 to 1982. This means the Aliyevs have headed Azerbaijan for most of its recent history.

Azerbaijan oftentimes receives criticism for jailing activists, carrying out targeted persecutions of Azeri dissidents abroad, as well as for its internal media freedom.

Reporters without Borders ranked Azerbaijan 167th out of 180 countries for media freedom. Most Azeri’s receive information from oftentimes state ran media sources, which are of course pro-government. Independent or opposition sources have the majority of their resources restricted, and can be struck with fines, or even imprisonment, if they print material against the government.

In 2015, Azerbaijan had the largest amount of imprisoned journalists out of any nation in Europe or Central Asia, and ranked as the fifth most censored country in the world, which was notedly ahead of both Iran and China.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.

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