British MPs willingly accept invitations to the events organized by Azerbaijan turning a blind eye to human rights situation in the country. This is stated in the article of British human rights activist Rebecca Vincent published in the website of Azerbaijani Service of Radio Liberty.
The author notes that on March 8 European Society of Azerbaijan (TEAS) organized a reception and Jazz evening, to which more than 200 members of Liberal Democratic Party of Britain were invited. The event was held under the framework of the Party’s spring conference in York.
The article reads that TEAS, dedicated to “to raising awareness of Azerbaijan and fostering closer economic, political and cultural links between that country and the nations of Europe” is headed by Tale Heydarov, son of Azerbaijan’s Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov. The Society has organized many cultural events in Europe, including this kind of receptions for members of British parties.
According to an employee of London human rights organization Platform, Emma Hughes, TEAS uses these events to get closer to British MPs, to draw them to its side and legitimize the repressive government of Azerbaijan in their eyes.
“This is one reason why MPs from across all three political parties have close links with Azerbaijan’s repressive regime and the UK is happy to do business with them,” Emma Hughes said. According to Vincent, cultural diplomacy itself is a positive development, however the Azerbaijanis use it to divert the attention from human rights situation that exist in their country. They convince foreign politicians to turn a blind eye to ongoing human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
“Unfortunately, many UK parliamentarians seem far too willing to be influenced,” Vincent states. According to her number of Lords and Deputies of the British Parliament provide TEAS with paid services. Among them are Lord Kilclooney, Lord Laird, Deputies Mark Field, Bob Blackman, Stephen Hammond, Stephen Hepburn and others. Deputy Fiona Mactaggart accepted an invitation to the horse races in 2012 at a cost of £ 1,000.
It is noted that a former member of the Liberal Democratic Party Mike Hancock constantly spoke in defense of the Azerbaijani regime in PACE as well as voluntarily became member of election monitoring missions to Azerbaijan. He painted a rosy picture of the country’s 2008 and 2013 presidential election and 2010 parliamentary elections. Hancock’s former aide, Ekaterina Zatuliveter, accepted a £3,000 payment from TEAS in 2009 “for the lobbying and consultancy”.
According to the author, few British MPs have taken a stand on human rights issues in Azerbaijan. She states that among them are Paul Flynn and Helen Goodman.
“It is time to address this imbalance. Politicians from all UK parties should be more discerning about what events they attend, what gifts and trips they accept,” the human rights activist posits. According to her, those taking part in cultural events should also look at human rights situation in the country.
Emma Hughes agrees with her. She thinks that British MPs should not allow TEAS to participate in their conferences anymore; instead they should invite human rights activists and defenders.