April 4, 2019 at 9:03 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
US ‘deeply concerned’ over arrests of LGBTI people in Azerbaijan
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A State Department spokesperson on April 4, 2019, said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over reports that indicate police in Azerbaijan have arrested more than a dozen LGBTI people. (Photo by Ted Eytan; courtesy Flickr)

A State Department spokesperson on Thursday said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over reports that indicate more than a dozen LGBTI people in Azerbaijan have been arrested.

Reuters cited an Azeri LGBTI advocacy group that said police this week arrested four transgender sex workers. Freedom House in a press release said police in Baku, the country’s capital, on Monday arrested “at least 14 LGBT+ people.”

ILGA-Europe in a tweet said those who were arrested were “forced to undergo medical examination to test their HIV/STI status.” ILGA-Europe also said authorities fined some of those who were arrested and sentenced them to 30 days “of arrest” on charges of “hooliganism.”

“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,” the State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade.

“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,” added the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the State Department “regularly” communicates with the Azeri government “regarding human rights and encourage it to uphold its international commitments on human rights.” The spokesperson added the U.S. Embassy in Baku “has conveyed our concern regarding these reports to” Azeri authorities.

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic that borders the Caspian Sea, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Iran.

The State Department in its 2018 human rights report notes Azeri police in September 2017 arrested more than 80 men “presumed to be gay or bisexual” and trans women during a series of raids they conducted. The report also says officers beat some of those they arrested and used electric shocks “to obtain bribes and information about other gay men.”

The State Department report also notes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Azerbaijan.

“Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people, including LGBTI people, can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled,” the State Department spokesperson told the Blade. “We strongly oppose human rights violations and abuses against LGBTI persons, including violence, the criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct, and serious forms of discrimination.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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