WASHINGTON, DC – Senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-CA) today called on the State Department to conduct a “Leahy Law” investigation of Azerbaijani war crimes committed during the April 2-7 attacks against Nagorno Karabakh, and urged an immediate suspension of military aid to Baku, citing the Aliyev regime’s ongoing attacks on Armenia and Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We echo Congressman Sherman’s call for a thorough Leahy Law investigation of Azerbaijani atrocities,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “The leaders of our State Department would clearly be derelict in their duties if they did not adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Leahy Law, a statute enacted not only to prevent international atrocities, but also to protect us, as Americans, from having our tax dollars used by foreign forces to commit human rights atrocities.”
In a May 18th letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Sherman urged that “pursuant to your obligations under 22 U.S. Code § 2378d (d) to seek out and evaluate credible information about human rights abuses by foreign security forces, you quickly and thoroughly investigate allegations that the Azerbaijani armed forces committed human rights abuses during the conflict with Nagorno-Karabakh from April 2 – 7.” He went on to urge that U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan be immediately suspended, arguing that “the Aliyev government continues to launch cross-border attacks against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, regularly threatens to renew hill-scale hostilities, and refuses U.S. and international calls to pull back snipers. Azerbaijan neither needs nor deserves American military aid.”
Last month, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, made a similar call for a “Leahy Law” investigation during Committee consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act. “I believe that these blatant human rights violations warrant action on our part to direct our Secretary of Defense to work with our Secretary of State on an investigation on possible human rights violations. And I believe the U.S. should conduct an investigation on whether the ‘Leahy Law’ is being violated by the Azerbaijani military,” stated Rep. Sanchez. “We, the United States, we are a leader on human rights and we cannot afford to support militaries that commit human rights violations.”
The ANCA has launched an online Congressional campaign – anca.org/WarCrimes – calling for the “Leahy Law” investigation immediately after reports emerged of atrocities committed by Aliyev’s forces against civilians and Karabakh defense forces during the April 2 – 7 Azerbaijani attacks on the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (Artsakh). The execution and mutilation of an elderly couple in the village of Talish in northern Nagorno Karabakh Republic and the beheading of three Armenian soldiers have been documented and reported to US and European officials along with reports of President Aliyev’s praise and compensation of at least one Azerbaijani soldier suspected of committing the atrocities.
Concerns about U.S. training of Azerbaijani soldiers who participated in the April 2-7 attacks have been raised by Caucasus analyst Emil Sanamyan, who identified Azerbaijan Special Forces Brigade Commander, Col. Vugar Yusifov, as having received training in 2007 as part of a Pentagon program held in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. Azerbaijani Special Forces Lieutenant Command Murad Mirzeyev reportedly participated in a US Marine Corps basic officer course in 2006. Both Yusifov and Mirzeyev were killed during the early April attacks against Karabakh, with credible reports that they may have been part of the incursion into Talish, where the atrocities against the elderly couple were committed.
As a recipient of both Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance, Azerbaijan is subject to scrutiny, under a set of U.S. laws known collectively as the “Leahy Laws”, which are triggered when there are reliable reports of U.S.-funded foreign units have committed atrocities. If proven to be true, such conduct would result in 1) statutory restrictions on continued military aid to the units found to have engaged in these abuses, 2) U.S. efforts to engage with the foreign government in question to bring those responsible to justice.
The Obama Administration, if it chooses to move forward with an investigation, would direct the Department of State – including the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs – to open a Leahy Law review – involving a thorough vetting of our military aid program to Azerbaijan and an investigation into reported anti-Armenian atrocities.