WASHINGTON, D.C.—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 resolution requests information from the State Department on Azerbaijan’s human rights abuses both within the country, as well as during its sustained military assault against Artsakh (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 Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has launched a nationwide action campaign urging senators to cosponsor and work toward passage of the Markey-Cassidy 502B legislation. Take action here.
“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 Artsakh 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.”
“Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh’s entire indigenous Armenian population last year was a modern-day genocide the U.S. had every opportunity to prevent – but instead enabled through the reckless provision of effectively unconditioned military assistance to Baku’s authoritarian regime,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “The ANCA joins with coalition partners in welcoming the leadership of Senators Markey and Cassidy in restoring much-needed congressional oversight of U.S. military assistance through the enforcement of Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act – an underutilized statute that can help reassert human rights to its rightful place at the center of U.S. foreign policy.”
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 introduction of the Markey-Cassidy resolution comes just months after Azerbaijan launched a military assault on Artsakh that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the region’s entire Armenian population of 150,000 people. This mass displacement of civilians followed a 10-month humanitarian blockade imposed by Azerbaijan along the Lachin Corridor – the only humanitarian lifeline connecting Artsakh’s Armenian-majority population with the Republic of Armenia – that deprived the region of food, fuel, medicine and humanitarian access, and had devastating implications on water and energy security.
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 longstanding 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 Committee 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.
“The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) supports the U.S. Senate resolution requesting the U.S. Secretary of State to produce a comprehensive report scrutinizing the dictatorial regime of Azerbaijan’s dismal human rights record… For three decades, the Aliyev dynastic dictatorship, which current tyrant Ilham Aliyev effectively inherited 20 years ago from his late father and former soviet Azerbaijani KGB head Heydar Aliyev, has systematically rigged elections and committed gross human rights violations, including the persecution and wrongful imprisonment of opposition figures and journalists, as well as the torture and extrajudicial killing of Armenian POWs and civilian detainees in the context of the armed conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It’s long overdue that the United States reassess its military assistance to the Aliyev regime, as this is likely to aid it in the commission of gross human rights violations.” – Javier El-Hage, Chief Legal and Policy Officer, Human Rights Foundation
“Amnesty International USA welcomes Senator Markey’s introduction of a resolution requesting information on Azerbaijan’s human rights practices pursuant to Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act. Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act is one of the most powerful tools Congress has to exercise human rights oversight on the executive, including through mandating annual country reports on human rights practices. We appreciate the Senator is calling for information from the State Department on Azerbaijan’s human rights record that would allow elected representatives in Congress to have access to the best information available to consider whether U.S. taxpayers are funding violations of international law. We hope more senators join as co-sponsors and vote yes when it moves to the floor.” – Amanda Klasing, National Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, Amnesty International USA
“This resolution marks an important step toward Congress reclaiming its long-neglected civilian protection oversight responsibilities when it comes to U.S. arms transfers and military aid. In too many conflicts around the world, U.S. arms transfers have both contributed to and facilitated devastating civilian harm. In Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor and subsequent armed attacks brought about a humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of civilians as well as mass displacement. Congress is right to invoke Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act to ask serious questions about Azerbaijan’s human rights and civilian protection record and the impact of U.S. arms transfers.” — Annie Shiel, U.S. Advocacy Director, Center for Civilians in Conflict
“CIP applauds Senator Markey and his colleagues for seeking accountability for U.S. arms sales to Azerbaijan, whose government has an abysmal record of human right violations, including a military campaign resulting in the forced displacement of civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The U.S. government must take the enforcement of its own arms laws and our security partners’ obligations under international humanitarian law seriously in order to achieve President Biden’s own stated goal of upholding human rights and a rules-based order in our foreign policy.” – Nancy Okail, President and CEO, Center for International Policy
“This resolution is an important effort to uphold U.S. laws requiring an end to military aid to abusive governments like Azerbaijan. It’s imperative that our government consistently and comprehensively enforce its own laws to all recipients of U.S. military aid.” — Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Democracy for the Arab World Now
“Women for Weapons Trade Transparency urges Congress to invoke section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act in light of Azerbaijan’s dismal record of human rights violations and war crimes. Congress must utilize its oversight powers to prevent U.S. assistance from being used in such violations and to ensure that U.S. weapons and funding are not hindering freedom of expression, threatening the operations of independent media, or aiding in arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecution.” – Lillian Mauldin, Board Member, Women for Weapons Trade Transparency.
* The signatories have various mandates that may not cover the full scope of the resolution’s provisions.