Minister’s close association with this dreadful state
Azerbaijan is ruled by a dictator Ilham Aliyev and is renowned for being a brutal state where torture is common and human rights flagrantly abused. In the words of Human Rights Watch:
Azerbaijan’s government has escalated repression against its critics, marking a dramatic deterioration in an already poor rights record. In recent years , dozens of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, prompting others to flee the country or go into hiding. Bank accounts of independent civic groups and their leaders have been frozen, impeding their work, or in some cases forcing them to shut down entirely. New legal regulations make it almost impossible for independent groups to get foreign funding. While criticizing the increasing crackdown, Azerbaijan’s international partners have failed to secure rights improvements.
The problem is that the country is rich in oil and so there is a rush by western and other governments to secure contracts. Hundreds of millions of dollars of the country’s wealth sit in overseas bank accounts controlled by the Aliyev family and they like owning large amounts of real estate in London as well. (Daily Mail 21 December 2012)
Where oil and money are concerned of course, it is too much for western countries including the UK, to concern themselves with human rights especially as we know that the emphasis now is on trade. Prince Andrew is a regular visitor to the country and Tony Blair was paid £90, 000 for a twenty minute speech. They have been using ‘sports wash’ to improve their image and hosted the recent Formula 1 race.
Another visitor is the Secretary of State for International Trade, the disgraced MP, Dr Liam Fox pictured left (Bing images). In the words of the New Statesman, ‘he is in the most literal sense, shameless and should never hold high office again.’ (23 December 2016) He was sacked for breaking the ministerial code.
According to the Observer (7 August 2016) he has been paid £5,700 for the right to translate his book Rising Tides into Azerbaijani. He was paid a further £3, 500 or so to fly out there to promote it. Few read the book in English and no other country has translated it. One passage from the book, referring to Burma, is interesting:
[…] freedom from fear and freedom of expression, including a free press and broadcast media and the right to dissent within the law. It requires an inclusive political solution that addresses the underlying causes of the conflict and takes into account the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all the people of a land. Until the rights, identities and hopes of all …, whatever their ethnic origins or religion, are treated as equal, peace and reconciliation will not be achieved.”
The reviewer of the Conservative Home site remarks:
A clear thread throughout the entire book is Fox’s emphasis on the values of liberty, democracy and human rights, and he makes a compelling case. He is not blindly idealistic, or reliant solely on the moral virtues of the argument – rather, he makes the case in terms of self-interest
It seems extraordinary that with these sentiments Dr Fox should consort with, and take money from, such a vile regime, beyond the needs of diplomacy. It fits with a government reluctant to tackle abuses in Saudi Arabia for example as we have commented frequently before. Final word to the Observer:
Dr Fox is a man for our debased times because his record with Azerbaijan shows the international trade secretary would not want to raise [human rights concerns] even if he could. Our future is not going to be proud and independent, but grubby and murky and filled with bad deals with worse governments; a future, in short, where the foxes rule the henhouse.