US govt expresses ‘deep concern’ about LGBTI arrests in Azerbaijan

US govt expresses ‘deep concern’ about LGBTI arrests in Azerbaijan

The US government has expressed ‘deep concern’ over the arrests of over a dozen LGBTI people in Azerbaijan.

The Department of State said that such moves would be ‘inconsistent’ the country’s human rights obligations.

Azri authorities began detaining people on Monday (1 April), LGBTI rights group Minority Azerbaijan reported the following day.

The group said that police began ‘hunting’ gay and trans sex workers and subjecting them to forced medical examinations.

At least 14 people have been arrested in the capital, Baku, five of whom Minority Azerbaijan claims to have identified.

A local source claimed that the length of detentions and forced medical examinations meant that the police had acted illegally.

The arrests have invoked memories of a brutal clampdown against the Azeri LGBTI community in 2017.

‘Inconsistent with Azerbaijan’s international human rights obligations’

Speaking to the Washington Blade, a spokesperson for the State Department said: ‘The United States is deeply concerned by reports of the arrest and detention of more than a dozen LGBTI individuals in Azerbaijan, as well as by reports that detained individuals may have been subjected to forced medical examinations.

‘If true, such acts would be inconsistent with Azerbaijan’s international human rights obligations, and with the principles and commitments it has undertaken as a participating state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,’ the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson also said that the State Department in Baku had ‘conveyed our concern regarding these reports’ to the Azeri authorities.

LGBTI rights group IGLA Europe also expressed ‘extreme concern’ in a Twitter thread.

‘Some of the detainees were fined and received 30 days of arrest for administrative misdemeanor acts,’ ILGA-Europe wrote.

‘Similarly to the raids in September 2017, it seems that law is applied arbitrarily to drive #LGBTI communities in #Azerbaijan underground,’ they added.

A source in Azerbaijan told Gay Star News that the authorities had ‘broken the law’ by carrying out the detentions.

The source claimed that people detained at Temporary Detention Centers should only be held for 48 or 96 hours.

They also said that it was illegal to enforce medical examinations in such a way.

‘The law […] states that medical examinations to persons living with HIV cannot be accomplished by physical, psychological or moral pressure,’ the source said.

LGBTI rights in decline 

Azerbaijan is considered one of the worst counties for LGBTI rights in Europe and Western Asia.

Although same-sex sexual activity is not criminalized in Azerbaijan, LGBTI rights have experienced a notable decline in recent years, where social attitudes towards the LGBTI community have worsened.

Equal rights group IGLA ranked Azerbaijan at the bottom of a list of 41 countries with regards to LGBTI rights.

The recent arrests will remind many of the clampdown against the LGBTI community two years ago.

In 2017, Azeri authorities rounded up and arrested more than 100 LGBTI people.

Those arrested report having to endure electroshock therapy, beatings, and various forms of humiliation while in custody. There were also reports that trans women had their heads shaved.

The move caused a global outcry, with the United Nations and numerous human rights groups condemning Azerbaijan for the crackdown.

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Author: Calum Stuart