July 16, 2007 - 14:32 AMT PanARMENIAN.Net
- The Armenian Assembly of America
(AAA) expressed serious concerns over Azerbaijan's attempts to restrict basic rights and freedoms for minorities and called on Congress to urge Baku to thoroughly investigate the deliberate destruction of Armenian headstones
in the medieval cemetery of Old Julfa (Nakhichevan) in 2005. In its statement submitted for a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing, the AAA condemns Azerbaijan's unwillingness to develop civil society based on legal norms. "This regime has fostered an atmosphere of intolerance for free speech and free press by regularly resorting to violence and arbitrary judicial practices. It also restricts the most basic rights and freedoms of its citizens, including those of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular members of the Armenian minority, who are routinely harassed and intimidated," the Assembly stated in its testimony. Turning to Azerbaijan's military expenditures, the Assembly highlighted that the country is one of the world's most rapidly militarizing regimes, having increased its spending from $141 million to $900 million in the past three years. "We remain concerned that the rapid military escalation by Azerbaijan not only poses a threat to democratic development and human rights, but also to regional stability and security. We therefore, urge this Subcommittee and Congress to implement policy measures that will bring about a de-escalation of tensions in the region, as well as foster greater respect for human rights," says the AAA statement passed to the PanARMENIAN.Net
Jennifer L. Windsor, executive director of Freedom House stated that the Azeri regime has been able to effectively utilize its enormous petrol wealth to further consolidate its control over society: "Azerbaijan as a hydrocarbon-dependent quasi-dynasty".