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Friday, December 19, 2014
 
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Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 * Email.anca@anca.org

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release ~ 2000-05-30
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian ~ Tel: (202) 775-1918

CONGRESSIONAL PANEL SHARPLY CRITICAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN AZERBAIJAN

Congressman Wolf Calls President Clinton's Meeting with Aliyev a "Mistake"

WASHINGTON, DC - The Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) heard sharp criticism of human rights violations by the government of Azerbaijan on the eve of that nation's parliamentary elections, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The May 25th hearing before the joint Senate-House CSCE panel included testimony from representatives of the State Department, the Azerbaijani government, leading opposition figures, and a human rights organization. The main topic of discussion was the growing level of human rights violations in Azerbaijan and the impact that these abuses would have on the upcoming parliamentary elections. The elections are widely viewed as the key factor in the Council of Europe's consideration of Azerbaijan's application for membership. They will also help determine the composition of the country's Central Election Commission, which will play a crucial role in the country’s eventual transfer of presidential power. At present the eighteen member Commission is almost entirely controlled by Azerbaijani president Geidar Aliyev.

Among the members of the Commission attending the hearing were Reps. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), and Frank Wolf (R-VA). Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) submitted statements for the record. In his remarks, Congressman Wolf criticized the lack of willingness on the part of the State Department to confront Azerbaijan's human rights abuses, noting, specifically, that "it was a mistake for President Clinton to have met with President Aliyev when he did."

The government of Azerbaijan was represented by Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev. Among those representing the Azerbaijani opposition were former president Abulfaz Elchibey, who now serves as chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front; Isa Gambarov, the former Parliament Speaker and current chairman of the Musavat Party; Rasul Guliev, the former Parliament Speaker and current co-chairman of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, and; Nazim Imanov of the National Independence Party.

Guliev informed the panel that no opposition exists in Azerbaijan that can express its own will. He stressed that he was "deeply troubled by the fact that my country is ruled by a dictatorship regime that continuously and ruthlessly violates human rights." He also noted that among the human rights abuses documented by international organizations and the U.S. State Department are suppression of the opposition and the media, and beatings and arrests of opposition leaders, journalists and their relatives. "Many prisoners have died mysteriously in prisons either by torture or because of medical help being withheld from them," explained Guliev. He closed by remarking that Azerbaijani president Geidar Aliyev "wants to cheat the people of his own nation and the whole world society as well."

Former president Abulfaz Elchibey noted that "All the elections in Azerbaijan since 1993 have been declared by independent international observers to be undemocratic and not free." He added that "Each time we wanted to boycott the elections because of the unfair election laws, the U.S. was telling us: 'go and participate, it is a good learning experience, monitor the violations.' We did go, we monitored the violations, we did it several times. The violations were monstrous." In a final note of frustration, Elchibey noted for the panel his insight that "Sometimes there is no congruity between the U.S. political principles and the interests of the oil companies."

“Regimes which refuse to guarantee the rights of their citizens to determine their own destiny should not enjoy the trust of the international community,” said Isa Gambarov. “Violations of civil and political rights in my country are commonplace. . . The courts, totally under the control of the president, refuse to even consider complaints by rejected or defeated candidates. In addition, the president pardons bureaucrats who have committed violations of the election laws."

Speaking on behalf of the U.S. government were Ambassador Daniel Fried, the Principal Deputy Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States, and Clifford Bond, the State Department's Office Director for Caucasus and Central Asian Affairs. Both agreed that elections in Azerbaijan have not met international standards, primarily due to the lack of credibility in the reporting of results.

Dr. Audrey Alstadt of the University of Massachusetts also testified, as did Cathy Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the International League for Human Rights. Fitzpatrick stressed that “There are many glaring human rights issues in Azerbaijan which must urgently be tackled –-torture in detention, failure to protect refugees, political prisoners, etc.”

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