The United States and European Union appear to be taking a stronger stance against Azerbaijan over Baku's poor rights record. Recent US and EU criticism is bolstering the resolve of local critics of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's administration, even though there are no immediate signs that Western leaders and institutions will follow up on their words with actions.
In a September 23 speech in New York City, President Obama included Azerbaijan in a list of the world’s worst human-rights violators, citing, in particular, “laws [that] make it incredibly difficult for NGO’s even to operate.”
The criticism was Obama’s first such public remark, and one that activists believe lends momentum to the European Parliament’s earlier call to the European Council, a priority-setting body that includes the 28 EU members’ heads of state, to apply “targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations” in Azerbaijan if such abuses persist.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku.