Europe must impose targeted sanctions against Azerbaijan

Yesterday's Sakharov Freedom Award seminar 2014 at the House of Literature in Oslo discussed what intergovernmental organizations like the Council of Europe, states like Norway, businesses like Statoil, and human rights organizations can do with the ongoing crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan and the imprisonment of human rights activists, journalists, political activists on political grounds

The answer, from our invited Azerbaijani experts and human rights defenders was clear: Targeted economic sanctions and visa bans against associated members of the Azerbaijani power elite. Last years’ developments clearly show that soft diplomacy is not working against a totalitarian state like Azerbaijan.

Steinar Gil

– There is now only one thing that is different  between Azerbaijan and Belarus, and that is that Belarus uses the death penalty. Europe has imposed sanctions towards Belarus, but will not do it against Azerbaijan. Why? Because Azerbaijan have oil and gas resources. This is something that we have to discuss, said Steinar Gil, former Norwegian Ambassador to Azerbaijan at the seminar.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 is awarded to Political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The authorities in oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan by the Caspian Sea have for years brutally silenced their critics by accusing them of fictive crimes and then sentencing them to lengthy prison terms. More than 90 political prisoners have been identified in the country by local human rights activists, by applying the Council of Europe’s criteria. Among these prisoners, we find some of the most knowledgeable, experienced and vocal human rights defenders, journalists, youth activists and opposition politicians. Civil society in Azerbaijan is being crushed and one of Norway’s partner countries is increasingly taking the appearance of a dictatorship.

The Sakharov Freedom Award will be presented to relatives and colleagues of the political prisoners at a ceremony at Hotel Bristol today at 16:00.

See videoes of the presentations below.