Frontex signs cooperation with Azerbaijan; political dissidents better forget about rights

I suppose by now anyone who has read anything I write knows about the lethal history of the European Border control agency Frontex. Today, this announcement was made: Frontex, Azerbaijani border service sign working arrangement. From the press release:

The Working Arrangement’s chief components include the development of activities in the field of information exchange and risk analyses, training and research-and-development related to border management as well as the elaboration and coordination of joint operational measures and pilot projects on border control. Sharing of experience is also envisaged with a view to developing efficient border-control procedures, enhanced technical capabilities and exchange of best practices.

Now, here’s the context not included in this press release:

On the situation of Azeri women displaced from their homeland due to a two decade long conflict with Armenia, Mehrangiz Najafizadeh writes

Azeri women IDPs/refugees are the most vulnerable of all Azeri women. In this context of crowded living conditions, giving birth to children in uncertain settings, inadequate medical care and nutrition, and unemployment, women’s roles are precarious as Azeri women IDPs/refugees have had minimal control over their social and physical environment during these extended years of continuing uncertainty and “temporary” displacement that, in effect, have become a state of permanence. Azeri IDP/refugee women continue to experience a prolonged state of “temporary” displacement that now is approaching two decades in length. Throughout this period, their lives have been filled with uncertainty. When will the dispute with Armenia be resolved? When will they be allowed to return to their homelands in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Authorities Targeting Youth Activists

The Azerbaijani authorities have a record of pressing bogus charges, including for drug possession, to intimidate and silence investigative journalists.

Rights Lawyer Imprisoned 

An Azerbaijan court on February 27, 2013, sentenced Bakhtiyar Mammadov, a human rights lawyer to eight years in prison on the basis of a prosecution and conviction that appear politically motivated. […] Mammadov represented several residents who were forcibly evicted from their homes in the capital, Baku, which were demolished in early 2012 as the government was building a performance hall for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. Mammadov’s clients had challenged the government compensation package, and Mammadov alleged corruption by a high-level official involved in the compensation funds.

Government Detains Outspoken Critics 

The arrest of two prominent government critics in Azerbaijan on broad charges of organizing mass disorder in Ismayilli raises concern they are facing political retribution. In January, mass protests in the town led to clashes with police. On February 4, 2013, Baku’s Nasimi District Court remanded the two men – Ilgar Mammadov, a political analyst and chair of the opposition group “REAL,” and Tofig Yagublu, deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat and a journalist with opposition daily Yeni Musavat – to two months’ pretrial custody. A court also remanded Ismayilli residents Mirkazim Abdullayev and Elshen Ismayilli to two months’ pretrial custody on the same charges.

Now Frontex is not only cooperating but sharing strategies of border control with a government that has a long, recorded history of torturing and imprisoning anyone who expresses dissent. The only reason our border control agency is engaging this government as equal peers is to prevent these dissidents from even trying to reach the European Union to escape persecution. Better dead in their homeland than immigrating into Fortress Europe goes the twisted and cruel logic. On the one hand, the EU will continue to “export” this rhetoric of championing human rights, often utilizing them as an excuse for neo-colonial interventions; on the other, when it is convenient to curb immigration, they will sign shady cooperation agreements with States that are abusing these very same human rights the EU loves to tout as a “model” of “freedom and democracy”.  In the meantime, the safety of thousands is left between a local government that views disagreement as grounds for imprisonment and a European Union administration that sees certain human lives as disposable, especially if they intend to seek refuge from unbearable living conditions.

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