Senators Call for Investigation into Turkish Human Rights Violations, US Military Aid

Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, D-New Jersey. File Photo

Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced two resolutions on Thursday calling for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to catalogue Turkey’s human rights abuses throughout the Caucasus, the Near East and in its own country.

The Senator, a longtime friend of Greece, wrote the resolutions along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Penn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

The stipulations require Pompeo to detail all the abuses that have been carried out by Turkey and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus, Syria, Iraq and Libya and in both of their own countries.

Additionally, the resolutions also require information on what role US security assistance may be playing in these abuses to inform whether the United States should restrict or end its security assistance and arms sales to those countries. Both the resolutions invoke statutory authority under section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act.

The Senators are introducing these measures in light of the ongoing violence in the south Caucasus, including the flaring up of conflict in Armenia’s long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

With full support from Turkey, Azerbaijan has attacked population centers, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians and driving more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population from their homes.

Senator Menendez’ resolution charges that Turkish aggression in Syria, Libya, and northern Iraq has also produced numerous credible reports of human rights violations. Within their own borders, the governments of both Azerbaijan and Turkey have long histories of denying their own people the human rights and fundamental freedoms they deserve, according to the veteran of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Azerbaijan’s ongoing aggression against the Armenian people – with Turkey’s full backing – has already exacted a painful toll on civilians in the region and resulted in appalling human rights abuses,” the resolution states.

“The United States cannot continue providing security assistance and arms to Azerbaijan and Turkey as they move the region further and further away from peace,” said ranking member Menendez.

“Turkey’s pattern of violence extends beyond the South Caucasus to Syria, Iraq, and Libya, and both President Aliyev and President Erdogan have inflicted appalling abuses on their own people. This resolution pushes back against Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s human rights abuses and paves the way to stop arming two governments that so often use their security forces to harm innocent people.”

The Azerbaijan resolution requests all available information concerning alleged violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the government of Azerbaijan within Azerbaijan as well as a description of the steps the US has taken to promote observance of human rights there.

In addition, it requests that the Secretary give his opinion on whether extraordinary circumstances require a continuation of US security assistance to Azerbaijan, and if all the facts suggesting such assistance is in the national interest of the US.

The senators’ resolutions also request the production of all available credible information concerning alleged violations of internationally-recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms by the government of Azerbaijan throughout the South Caucasus and information on the likelihood that US security assistance has been or will be used in the South Caucasus by that entity.

Menendez and his colleagues are also calling for a description of the steps the US has taken to discourage practices inimical to human rights by the Government of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus, and to disassociate the US and its security assistance from them.

The Turkish resolution requests that all available information be catalogued concerning alleged violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the government of Turkey within its own borders and a description of the steps the US has taken to promote observance of human rights in that country.

Secretary Pompeo’s opinion on the security assistance the United States gives to Turkey and whether or not this is in the national interest of the US is also being requested.

All available information concerning alleged violations of internationally-recognized human rights by the government of Turkey, its armed forces, and associated groups and persons in the south Caucasus, Syria, Libya, and Iraq must also be part of the response requested by the senators in the resolution.

They are also asking for information on whether US security assistance has been or is likely to be used in the South Caucasus, Syria, Libya, or Iraq by the government of Turkey as well as information on whether US-built F-16s have been used by the government of Turkey in the South Caucasus.

The Turkish resolution also calls for a description of steps the US has taken to discourage practices inimical to human rights by the government of Turkey in the south Caucasus, Syria, Libya, and Iraq, and to disassociate the US and US security assistance from them.

A copy of the senators’ Azerbaijan resolution can be found here, and a copy of the Turkey resolution can be found here.

It was announced on Thursday evening that Secretary Pompeo will be meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, at the Department of State, on Friday morning. Directly after that, he will meet with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.