Rebecca Vincent: “The European Union must use its influence.”
On August 31st, hearings took place in the European Parliament on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, the new wave of repression in the country and corruption.
Ana Gomes, a deputy member of the EP from Portugal, stated that money earned illegally through corruption in Azerbaijan, India and Guatemala is being funneled through banks of the European Union, in addition to being poured into real estate properties located on the territory of the EU.
Rights defender Rebecca Vincent spoke of the current situation in Azerbaijan, and said that since the European Games that took place in Baku last summer, the human rights situation has not changed. Vincent, who said that corruption in Azerbaijan has since spread and gained ground, noted that: “Even though the international community condemns the events going on in the country, we do not see proof of any concrete steps against it. Azerbaijan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. According to Transparency International, it is towards the very bottom of the list, at 119th place. Aliyev’s family and other oligarchs use state funds to further their corrupt activities.”
The government uses Gulen as an excuse
Vincent also noted that Khadijah Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and employee of Azadliq Radio, had exposed much corruption in Azerbaijan, and for that reason was arrested: “Even if Khadijah has been released from prison, the country still hasn’t. A number of journalists are in a similar position, and are political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani government is continuing to arrest people, such as journalists, activists and religious leaders. In the month of August, a new wave of repression started in the country. The government of Azerbaijan is using the anti – Gulen campaign in Turkey as an excuse to start a new wave of repression to quiet its own enemies and the opposition. The director of “Azadliq Newspaper”, which for years has been subject to serious government pressure, has been arrested in this new wave. Others have also been accused of various crimes and arrested this past month, including Natiq Jafarli and Elgiz Qahraman. Before that, youth activists Qiyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov were arrested for writing graffiti on a state to Heydar Aliyev. They have been in detention for months now. Besides this, NIDA Civic Movement member, Ilkin Rustamzade, and an employee of Azadliq Newspaper, Seymur Hazi, have been in jail for years.”
The European Union must look at putting sanctions against Azerbaijan
Vincent, who reminded the deputies of the EP that on September 26th a referendum will be held on proposed changes to the Azerbaijani constitution, noted that the government is trying to suffocate all criticism of the referendum.
She further noted that in Azerbaijan, the media is kept strictly under the supervision of the government, which is gradually worsening the situation of media and journalism in Azerbaijan:
“I believe that the European Union must examine the possibility of putting sanctions against Azerbaijan for human rights violations and its use of repressive means to silence individuals that speak out against the authorities. Sanctions must be placed on individuals in particular. Such sanctions will be more effective in the fight against corruption…the European Union must use its influence. In the context of the current crisis, Azerbaijan needs the international community.”