Reps. Smith, McGovern Introduce Legislation to Hold Azerbaijan Accountable for Human Rights Abuses

From left to right: Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)
From left to right: Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)

From left to right: Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)

WASHINGTON – In light of continued human rights abuses by the Azerbaijani regime, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) along with lead Democrat co-Sponsor Jim McGovern (D-MA), introduced H. Res. 537 on September 26, which promotes the rule of law and respect for human rights in Azerbaijan.

“The Azerbaijani regime continues to use torture, politically-motivated criminal charges, harassment, international kidnapping and other forms of intimidation to silence human rights defenders, independent journalists and religious leaders,” said Smith, who chairs the House panel on global human rights. “It is evident that there are important security and economic ties between our countries, however these violations cannot be ignored.”

Among other key provisions, H. Res. 537 calls on the United States Government to prioritize the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people in Azerbaijan when dealing with their government and urges the application of provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (P.L. 114-328) to punish Azerbaijani officials who violate internationally recognized human rights. Further, the legislation calls on the government of Azerbaijan to immediately release all political prisoners and prisoner of conscience and to cease targeting those who advocate for government based on accountability and democratic values.

“The Global Magnitsky Act has paved the way for a new era of U.S. leadership in defending universal human rights,” said Smith, who authored the House version of P.L. 114-328. “The U.S. must use this toolkit, consisting of visa bans and asset freezes, to punish the perpetrators of human rights abuses. These penalties would shatter the impunity that rights violators in the government of Azerbaijan enjoy.”

Meanwhile, the ANCA has welcomed the work of the two representatives. “We commend Representatives Smith and McGovern for leveraging the power of the Global Magnitsky Act to impose real-world costs on Azerbaijan for its escalating repression,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian

Smith has held two hearings on Azerbaijan’s human rights abuses. The most recent was entitled “Azerbaijan’s Persecution of RFE/RL Reporter Khadija Ismayilova.”

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