YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 2, ARMENPRESS. U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bipartisan resolution requesting a report on Azerbaijan’s human rights practices pursuant to Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reports.
The resolution requests information from the U.S. State Department on Azerbaijan’s human rights abuses both within the country, as well as during its sustained military assault against Nagorno-Karabakh that last year resulted in the ethnic cleansing of its entire indigenous Armenian population. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Peter Welch (D-VT) have joined as original cosponsors.
“The need to hold Azerbaijan’s government accountable and forge a peaceful path forward is long overdue,” said Senator Markey. “Military action has never been the solution to peace and stability in Nagorno-Karabakh. This resolution puts pressure on Azerbaijan’s government to uphold human rights and stop committing crimes against ethnic Armenians in the region. We must protect the will, the rights, and the bedrock freedoms of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“Azerbaijan has already been bulldozing holy sites and starving Armenian communities. This is the type of country the Biden administration wants supplying LNG to Europe instead of Louisiana natural gas?” said Dr. Cassidy.
A House version of the 502B(c) request on Azerbaijan – H.Res.735 – was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) during Azerbaijan’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.
“The Administration’s continuing support for the Aliyev regime, which regularly commits atrocities and human rights violations, simply isn’t in line with our values as Americans. Given Azerbaijan’s egregious military action against Artsakh on September 19, it is imperative that President Biden and Secretary Blinken reconsider our aid policies,” said Representative Schiff. “This resolution aims to gather information on human rights abuses and war crimes being committed by Azerbaijan and to halt future aid. As a country that champions human rights, we must ensure our foreign aid reflects our commitment to core values and does not contribute to further violence against the Armenian people in Artsakh. This resolution is a step towards aligning our international aid with the ethical standards and interests of the United States.”
The Markey-Cassidy resolution will require the Department of State to provide a detailed description of widely documented human rights abuses perpetrated by Azerbaijan, including unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture of detainees, the displacement of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, and the destruction of religious and cultural sites – in addition to violations of internationally recognized human rights including freedom of speech, assembly, political participation, and religious freedom.
The Markey-Cassidy 502B(c) resolution on Azerbaijan will build on ongoing efforts to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its human rights violations – including the recent unanimous passage of S.3000, led by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), which would prohibit the executive branch from exercising its waiver authority over existing restrictions on military assistance to Azerbaijan pursuant to Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act is a long-standing yet underutilized statute that prohibits U.S. security assistance to “any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.” If the Markey-Cassidy resolution passes, it will mark the first time that Congress has requested a report under Section 502B(c) since 1976.
Section 502B(c) is a potent tool to reassert long-overdue Congressional oversight and human rights standards on U.S. military assistance. As a privileged measure, Senators have the ability to discharge a 502B(c) report and force a vote on the Senate floor. Upon passage of the resolution, the State Department must provide a report within 30 days detailing a country’s human rights practices and the steps taken by the United States to prevent these abuses – or security assistance will automatically be suspended until such a statement is transmitted. Following the provision of the requested report by the State Department, Congress may then vote to terminate or restrict security assistance through a joint resolution of disapproval.
Over 25 civil society organizations have welcomed Senator Markey and Cassidy’s introduction of a 502B(c) request in Azerbaijan’s human rights practices, including: Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), National Council of Churches (NCC), the Arms Control Association (ACA), Friends Commitee on National Legislation (FCNL), Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Center for International Policy (CIP), Peace Action, Common Defense, Action Corps, Foreign Policy for America (FP4A), Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Action, Women for Weapons Trade Transparency, Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding & Policy, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), In Defense of Christians (IDC), American Friends of Kurdistan (AFK), and the Anglican Office for Government & International Affairs.
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