WASHINGTON, DC (Panorama.am) — Senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership and a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, David J. Kramer and adjunct professor at George Mason University and former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Richard Kauzlarich published a joint article in The Washington Post, where they touch upon the human rights restrictions and imprisonment of opposition members in Azerbaijan, calling the President of the United States to impose sanctions against Azerbaijan.

“Since the April summit, Aliyev’s regime has intensified its crackdowns on freedoms. Azerbaijan’s rapid, dangerous deterioration demands more decisive action from the United States, yet the Obama administration has remained largely silent. The government in Baku has increased its arrests and detentions of another dozen opposition figures, peaceful religious believers and civil society activists. Nearly 100 political prisoners are languishing in the country’s jails,” they write.

The authors also think that the situation on the ground may get even worse as Aliyev’s regime plans to force a referendum which aims to enhance his powers. “The result of the referendum is already known; we can be sure that the government will ensure its approval. That means that Aliyev can extend his term from five to seven years, create new positions of vice president (to which he might name a member of his family) and lower the age for members of parliament — opening the door for his son Heydar to be elected. It would not be a surprise if elections were called early under the new constitution to ratify these authoritarian steps.”

David J. Kramer and Richard Kauzlarich call the U.S. President to impose sanctions against Azerbaijan. “In the past, we have called for sanctions — asset freezes and visa bans — against Azerbaijani officials involved in and responsible for gross human rights abuses. President Obama doesn’t need new legislation to take such measures; he can do so under existing presidential authorities. Beyond that, we should withhold U.S. support for International Monetary Fund and World Bank assistance should Azerbaijan request it amid its deteriorating economic situation and end Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Export-Import Bank lending to Azerbaijan.”

They also write that the U.S. also needs to get the Europeans on board with similar measures.

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