April 27, 2024 - 14:44 AMT
Titus, Bilirakis lead legislation to sanction Azerbaijani war criminals

Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) have introduced bipartisan legislation that seeks to enforce sanctions against Azerbaijani officials responsible for war crimes and human rights abuses, including the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh, the arbitrary detention of Armenian POWs and civilian captives, the torture and abuse of detainees, and extrajudicial killings, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Specifically, The Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act of 2024″ would require the Biden Administration to report within 180 days of passage the applicability of sanctions on Azerbaijani officials responsible for human rights violations, based on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Section 7031 of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Act.

Rep. Titus explained, “Armenians are facing an ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide at the hands of Azerbaijan, which is why I have introduced the Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act of 2024. After its illegal, year-long blockade of the Lachin Corridor, Azerbaijan weaponized food and starved many of Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians. The Aliyev government rejected calls from the international community to withdraw and ease tensions, but instead launched an assault on the Armenian community in Artsakh.

Rep. Titus continued, “We cannot mince words when talking about what ensued: ethnic cleansing with genocidal intent. People with long-standing claims to the land were systematically pushed out by an aggressor; children were denied food and water and are no longer able to go to school; and Christian landmarks were desecrated. It’s time to impose costs on President Aliyev and his supporters for their actions instead of rewarding them with arms deals. My bill is an important first step.”

Rep. Bilirakis concurred, “Given the political and humanitarian crisis that has resulted from Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Artsakh and the continued oppression of political dissidents, careful consideration of whether or not Magnitsky sanctions are applicable are certainly warranted. We have an obligation to speak up against political oppression around the globe and to give voice to those who are being oppressed.”

ANCA Western Region Board Member and ANCA Nevada Chair Lenna Hovanessian, JD. welcomed the Rep. Titus’ leadership. “Rep. Titus has been and continues to be a steadfast Champion for human rights and for the Armenian-American people of Nevada in this courageous and powerful stance. The Nevada Armenian community and beyond are so proud of her leadership on this unprecedented and brave step to end the impunity of Azerbaijan for its genocidal policies, and to hold its officials accountable for human rights violations under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.”

Congresswoman Titus announced her intention to pursue sanctions against Azerbaijani officials during her remarks at the Congressional Armenian Genocide Commemoration on Capitol Hill, noting that “this bill will impose various sanctions on Azerbaijani officials who directed or carried out the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh.” The Congresswoman continued, “it is time we make them pay, and impose costs on them for their actions.”

In addition to Representatives Titus and Bilirakis, the original cosponsors on the bill are: Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Beatty (D-OH), Cardenas (D-CA), Valadao (R-CA), Horsford (D-NV), Malliotakis (R-NY), Costa (D-CA), Auchincloss (D-MA), Meng (D-NY), Schiff (D-CA), Stevens (D-MI), Pappas (D-NH), Lee (D-CA), Lawler (R-NY), Sarbanes (D-MD), Lee (D-NV) and Amo (D-RI).

The bill refers to two sanctions mechanisms: The Global Magnitsky Act authorizes the President to impose economic sanctions and deny entry into the United States to any foreign person identified as engaging in human rights abuse or corruption. Section 7031 of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Act requires the Secretary of State to make foreign officials and their family members ineligible for U.S. entry if there is evidence that such individuals have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights.

“Azerbaijan must be held accountable for genocide of Artsakh, facing material consequences for its brazen violations of international law,” remarked ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “For decades, the U.S. has refused to impose meaningful costs on Azerbaijan for its aggression against the Armenians of Artsakh – emboldening and enabling its genocidal behavior and emboldening its leaders to believe that they can act with impunity. This bipartisan bill represents an important step towards accountability and justice. Its passage is needed to deter further Azerbaijani aggression in the region.”

The list of over 40 Azerbaijani officials named in the bill was compiled by the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC-JHR) in collaboration with its partners at the International Comparative Law Center in Yerevan, which verified the complicity of the named individuals in the perpetration of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

“The Armenian Legal Center welcomes the leadership of Congresswoman Titus on this critical bill calling for the Administration to take concrete action to hold senior Azerbaijani military, governmental and judicial officials accountable for war crimes and human rights abuses,” said Ken Hachikian, Chair of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights. “The Global Magnitsky Act clearly applies to the over 40 individuals cited by the Congresswoman, and we collectively call upon the Departments of State and Treasury to impose sanctions as soon as possible to ensure Azerbaijan faces tangible costs for its genocide of Artsakh.”

The list includes senior officials in Azerbaijan’s ministries of justice and defense, military officials, and specific units responsible for overseeing and carrying out war crimes, as well as judges and lawyers responsible for the arbitrary detention of captives. The ALC-JHR has filed comprehensive reports on each of these cases with the Departments of State and Treasury to trigger a formal assessment of the applicability of Global Magnitsky Act Sanctions against Azerbaijani officials.

The bill also highlights the over 90 Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives illegally detained by Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War who have face torture and abuse – and names Artsakh’s political leadership illegally captured by Azerbaijan during its genocidal assault on the region in September, 2023 including Ruben Vardanyan, Davit Manukyan, Davit Babayan, Levon Mnatsakanyan, Arkadi Ghukasyan, Bako Sahakyan, Arayik Harutyunyan, and Davit Ishkhanyan.