Azerbaijan:Hague must raise human rights concerns during gas pipe deal visit

Foreign Secretary William Hague must raise human rights concerns when he visits Azerbaijan to sign a deal involving ambitious plans to build a massive gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Europe today.

William Hague will attend a ceremony today, where agreement on the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline will be signed in Baku.  It will mark the second phase of exploitation of the Shah Deniz gas field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. A final investment decision is due to be agreed and British company BP is one of the most substantial investors. The UK provides almost half of all foreign investment in Azerbaijan.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty UK’s Head of Policy & Government Affairs, said:

“Azerbaijan has an appalling human rights record and the country is currently embarked on a particularly aggressive crack down on freedom of expression.

“When the Foreign Secretary goes there, he should be making sure that the deal on the table is not limited to gas and profit. He should be seeking guarantees on human rights.

“William Hague should be calling for the release of prisoners of conscience, targeted for criticising this image-obsessed government. There are eight youth activists currently imprisoned for having organised a peaceful pro-democracy protest in March. Their release should be on the table. He should also mention detained journalist Parviz Hashimli who managed to shout out allegations that he has been tortured, when he appeared in court last week.

“The Foreign Secretary must honour his own promise not to allow trade interests to trump human rights concerns in foreign relations. He should use the UK’s key role in Azerbaijan’s economic prosperity to make it clear that human rights abuse will not be tolerated.

“This visit could be a key opportunity to influence Azerbaijan, after all he who pays towards the pipeline should call the tune.”

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