Members of the European Parliament emphasised on Friday that the turmoil in Ukraine should not divert attention from other cases of human rights violations in the EU neighbouring countries.
The “spy scandal” in Azerbaijan, seen as an attempt to silence Khadija Ismayil, investigative journalist, has attracted their attention. In an open letter to the High Representative of the EU in foreign affairs Catherine Ashton and the Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Commissioner Stefan Fule, two influential European MPs – Ana Gomes, the Socialist spokesperson on foreign affairs, and Barbara Lochbiler, the chair of the Human Rights sub-committee – called the accusations against Ismayilova a reminiscence of the repressive Soviet practices, when dissidents were accused of being “foreign spies.” They also note with great concern that this case fits into a broader pattern of violations of rights, as seen in the continuing imprisonment of dozens of political activists, NGO members and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.
Euro MPs called on the EU executive to use its leverage over Azerbaijan to demand respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, in line with Azerbaijan´s own international commitments. In this context, they appeal to the High Representative Ashton and the Commissioner Fule to make any upgrading of the EU´s relations with Azerbaijan, especially in the form of a strategic modernization partnership, conditional on the release of the political prisoners and the end of the harrassment of independent journalists and political activists.