Time for Sanctions on Baku
The American Interest
by David Kramer and Richard Kauzlarich
For years, Belarus’s leader Alexander Lukashenka has been called Europe’s last dictator, although Vladimir Putin is giving Lukashenka a run for his money, amidst the worst crackdown on human rights in Russia in decades. And now we might also add another leader in the region to the list: President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.
After an accelerating series of arrests, Aliyev’s government now holds nearly 100 political prisoners, roughly double the number in Belarus and Russia combined. Beyond the raw numbers, Azerbaijan’s authorities are also getting more thuggish in their handling of critics, journalists, and opposition figures—as well as Westerners.
Statements of concern and criticism from Western and international officials and organizations have fallen on deaf ears in Baku. Even President Obama’s recent criticism of Azerbaijan’s treatment of NGOs made no impact. To the contrary, there are now credible reports that the Azerbaijani authorities plan to arrest investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova when she returns to Baku from a trip abroad. The best way to try to reverse this disturbing trend is to impose penalties on the Aliyev regime for its outrageous treatment of its own people.
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