Is U.S. interest in Azerbaijani human rights selective hearing?

Is U.S. interest in Azerbaijani human rights selective hearing?

Commentary-Op-Ed

Rachel Brooks

May 3, 2021 

In this recent panel on landmines in Karabakh, U.S. defense expert Benjamin Minick noted that the landmines issue was an express violation of human rights. He also said that the manner in which they were planted was intentional. “They wanted to inflict maximum damage.” 

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken continues in the pattern of the United States’ neutral, distant, sometimes incoherent policy toward the South Caucasus. For the last few months since the ceasefire of the Karabakh conflict, the United States continues to take a position explaining its appeal for human rights enforcement in Azerbaijan. Yet, the United States’ appeal of human rights for Azerbaijan has been inconsistently focused. 

On March 26, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued this statement with regards to Azerbaijan: 

I am disturbed that human rights defense lawyer Shahla Humbatova of Azerbaijan was disbarred from the Azerbaijani bar on the eve of International Women’s Day, a year after receiving the Secretary of State’s International Woman of Courage (IWOC) award. Her work, and the work of other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, should be celebrated, not punished, and we call on those responsible to expedite her reinstatement to the Azerbaijani bar.

A consensus of speakers at the International conference “Landmine free Azerbaijan” noted that the main obstacle to the human rights and rehabilitation of Karabakh was the landmines in the region. With the pressures landmines present on the development of international trade and rehabilitation, why has the United States not commented on its commitment to landmine removal as part of its commitment to Azerbaijan’s human rights? 

 

“The United States is committed to a world in which human rights are respected, their defenders are celebrated, and those who commit human rights abuses are held accountable. We encourage all steps toward systemic reforms in Azerbaijan, especially those regarding the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms – areas that will benefit the Azerbaijani people and create opportunities to deepen our cooperation.”

The U.S. has spoken frequently regarding efforts to increase cooperation between itself and Azerbaijan. This is a statement that has been repeated in a recent call between the United States and Azerbaijan reported on April 28.  

 

 

 

Yet, there has been no official statement made by the U.S. State Department official website regarding the continued issues of landmine removal, or of the reluctance of Armenia to produce adequate maps for the landmines planted in the Karabakh region. There was no expression of dismay that the human rights of Azerbaijanis had been jeopardized by the lack of maps. This is a well-documented issue, brought to the public attention by Caspian News on April 7, nearly a month before the State Secretary’s call with Azerbaijan. No express commitment to aiding the effort of the demining process was mentioned in the State Department’s address of the call made with Azerbaijani President Aliyev.