Text: H.Res.537 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (09/26/2017)

 
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[H. Res. 537 Introduced in House (IH)]

<DOC>






115th CONGRESS
  1st Session
H. RES. 537

Promoting United States national security and foreign policy objectives 
through consolidation and strengthening of the rule of law and respect 
            for human rights in the Republic of Azerbaijan.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                           September 26, 2017

 Mr. Smith of New Jersey (for himself and Mr. McGovern) submitted the 
 following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign 
                                Affairs

_______________________________________________________________________

                               RESOLUTION


 
Promoting United States national security and foreign policy objectives 
through consolidation and strengthening of the rule of law and respect 
            for human rights in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Whereas the Republic of Azerbaijan is a partner for the United States and its 
        allies in combating terrorism, supporting United States and allied 
        operations in Afghanistan, promoting European energy security, and 
        addressing other transnational threats;
Whereas it is in the national security interest of the United States to advance 
        respect for universally recognized human rights and rule of law as the 
        foundation for just, peaceful, and prosperous relations among nations;
Whereas the United States and the Republic of Azerbaijan as members of the 
        Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and 
        signatories of the Helsinki Final Act ``recognize the universal 
        significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which 
        is an essential factor for peace, justice and well-being necessary to 
        ensure the development of friendly relations and co-operation among 
        themselves as among all States'';
Whereas, as an OSCE participating State, the Government of Azerbaijan has 
        committed itself to work toward a standard of free and fair elections, 
        yet since signing the Helsinki Final Act in 1992 no election held in 
        Azerbaijan has met the minimum requirements as determined by the OSCE;
Whereas the Department of State's 2016 Country Report on Human Rights Practices 
        for Azerbaijan found that ``authorities limited the freedoms of 
        expression, assembly, and association through intimidation, 
        incarceration on questionable charges, and harsh abuse of selected 
        activists and secular and religious opposition figures'';
Whereas the Department of State's 2016 Country Report on Human Rights Practices 
        for Azerbaijan further determined that ``authorities arbitrarily 
        arrested and detained activists, engaged in politically motivated 
        imprisonment, conducted trials that lacked due process, and subjected 
        activists to lengthy pretrial detention with impunity'';
Whereas a coalition of Azerbaijani nongovernmental human rights organizations in 
        August 2017 documented 158 political prisoners in Azerbaijan;
Whereas opposition leader and former Presidential candidate Ilgar Mammadov has 
        been detained since February 2013 and remains in jail serving a 7-year 
        prison sentence in contravention of a European Court of Human Rights 
        decision calling for his release and determining the charges against him 
        were intended ``to silence or punish [him] for criticizing the 
        Government'';
Whereas credible reports indicate that Azerbaijani authorities tortured, 
        humiliated, and threatened 2 Azerbaijani youth activists into confessing 
        to serious drug charges after they vandalized a public statue in May 
        2016 and were subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison on the 
        fabricated drug charges;
Whereas the Government of Azerbaijan since March 2017 has blocked the websites 
        of Meydan TV, the Azadliq newspaper, Turan TV, and the United States-
        sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Azeri service, 
        effectively stifling the country's only remaining major sources of 
        independent news following years of Government efforts to harass, coopt, 
        and shutter independent media sources in print, radio, and TV;
Whereas, as of September 1, 2017, approximately 10 journalists are in jail in 
        Azerbaijan, the RFE/RL Baku Bureau remains closed by government order 
        since 2014, and RFE/RL correspondent Khadija Ismayilova remains subject 
        to a travel ban following her arrest, conviction, imprisonment, and 
        release in 2016;
Whereas independent Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted from 
        Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 29, 2017, beaten, transported against his will 
        into Azerbaijan, charged by Azerbaijani authorities with illegal border 
        crossing and smuggling, and as of September 1, 2017, remains in pre-
        trial detention in Baku while those responsible for his kidnapping are 
        unidentified and face no consequences;
Whereas the 2017 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International 
        Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that in 2016 the Government of 
        Azerbaijan ``increased its repression of independent religious activity, 
        closing Sunni mosques, raiding religious bookshops, and harassing 
        Jehovah's Witnesses and certain Protestant communities'';
Whereas, as of September 1, 2017, more than 90 prisoners of conscience are in 
        jail for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of 
        religion and assembly;
Whereas the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorizes the 
        United States Government to deny travel visas and freeze the United 
        States-based assets of foreign government officials responsible for 
        ``extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of 
        internationally recognized human rights'' or ``ordering, controlling, or 
        otherwise directing, acts of significant corruption''; and
Whereas the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 authorizes the United 
        States Government to deny travel visas to any foreign government 
        official responsible for ``particularly severe violations of religious 
        freedom'', including ``torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment 
        or punishment; prolonged detention without charges; causing the 
        disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of 
        those persons; or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, 
        or the security of persons'': Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
            (1) affirms the importance of the United States partnership 
        with the Government of Azerbaijan in the strategic areas of 
        international security, European energy security, and economic 
        development;
            (2) calls on the United States Government, in its 
        diplomatic engagement and delivery of bilateral assistance, to 
        prioritize as a matter of strategic importance its response to 
        the Government of Azerbaijan's violations of universally 
        recognized human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of 
        law to ensure the long-term sustainability of the United 
        States-Azerbaijani bilateral partnership;
            (3) calls on the Government of Azerbaijan to immediately 
        release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, 
        rehabilitate their records, lift travel bans, and cease 
        harassment, intimidation, and mistreatment of citizens engaged 
        in political speech, independent journalism, and other forms of 
        advocacy on behalf of government accountability, democratic 
        values, and universally recognized human rights;
            (4) urges the United States Government to closely evaluate 
        reporting from intelligence, diplomatic, open source, 
        congressional, and nongovernmental organization sources to 
        identify and impose travel and financial restrictions on 
        Government of Azerbaijan officials responsible for gross 
        violations of internationally recognized human rights, pursuant 
        to the provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights 
        Accountability Act;
            (5) urges the United States Government to closely evaluate 
        reporting from intelligence, diplomatic, open source, 
        congressional, and nongovernmental organization sources to 
        identify and impose travel restrictions on Government of 
        Azerbaijan officials responsible for severe violations of 
        religious freedom, pursuant to the provisions of the 
        International Religious Freedom Act of 1998; and
            (6) stands with the people of Azerbaijan in support of 
        their peaceful efforts to achieve democratic reform and 
        exercise their fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Helsinki 
        Final Act and other international charters.
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