Bush Must Hold Azerbaijan to Democratic Standards
Freedom House today called on President George W. Bush to raise Azerbaijan's poor democratic record when he and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev meet at the White House on April 28. The Azerbaijani authorities' restriction of a range of political and human rights consistently places them among the poorest performing countries in Freedom House's annual surveys on the state of political rights and civil liberties throughout the world.
Although the agenda for the meeting between the two presidents will likely focus on a range of issues, President Bush should seize this opportunity to signal clearly to President Aliyev the priority the U.S. government places on Azerbaijan's democratic reform.
"President Bush has made democracy promotion a priority of his presidency. His upcoming meeting with President Aliyev presents an important opportunity for him to discuss Azerbaijan's democracy deficit and prove that democratic ideals will not be undermined by other foreign policy interests," Ms. Windsor added.
A Freedom House delegation led by Deputy Director Thomas O. Melia will be meeting in Baku this week to discuss the findings of Freedom House's forthcoming reports about the state of democracy in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is rated "Not Free" in the latest Freedom in the World survey. President Alilyev has no effective checks on his power, either from parliament or the judicial system. The country's national television media is tightly controlled by President Aliyev's family and senior officials. Civil society operates under enormous pressure from the authorities. Parliamentary elections held last November, which were looked to as a potential turning point for Azerbaijan's politics, were plagued by abuses, including intimidation of opposition candidates and fraud in vote counting. Corruption permeates the society from top to bottom.
"Azerbaijan finds itself at a crossroads. Given the enormous oil revenues the country is about to receive, it is imperative that the Azerbaijani authorities implement democratic reforms to ensure that this wealth is not swallowed by the country's pervasive corruption, and can benefit all of the country's citizens," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor.
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights, civil liberties and freedom of the press in Azerbaijan since 1991.
Freedom House reports on Azerbaijan can be found at:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.