USAN PRESS RELEASE
July 6, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USAN Contact: YesWeCan[at]USAzeris.org
Washington, D.C. — On June 24, 2009, Senator Richard Durbin (IL) <http://durbin.senate.gov/showRelease.cfm?releaseId=315009>, Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) <http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200906/062409c.html> and Senator Russell Feingold (WI) introduced an important legislature, the “Crimes Against Humanity Act of 2009” (S. 1346). According to the senators, “This legislation will make it a violation of United States law to commit a crime against humanity, and will help ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity do not find safe haven in the United States.” We at the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) commend the Senators for the work on this legislation, which we fully and wholeheartedly support, and are glad to see that a diverse group of non-profits is also supporting the legislation, from Human Rights Watch (HRW) <http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/06/24/us-support-law-crimes-against-humanity>, to such unlikely groups as the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) < http://www.aaainc.org/index.php?id=7&no_cache=1&newsID=214> and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) <http://www.anca.org/press_releases/press_releases.php?prid=1520>. Both of these organizations are the largest Armenian nonprofits in U.S., and have been vocal about the currently occupied Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
The work of the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, which was created during the last Congress, and chaired by Sen. Durbin, has already achieved important results. Last Congress, the President signed into law the Genocide Accountability Act, which closed a loophole that had allowed those who commit or incite genocide to seek refuge in our country without fear of prosecution for their actions. These legislative initiatives were a critical step toward showing the international community that the United States will not tolerate such high crimes at home or abroad, and that those who commit these atrocities must be held accountable for their actions. It is important to follow on the next step to protect victims of crimes against humanity in the United States, and to hold those responsible for these terrible crimes to account.
Although the United States has strongly and consistently for more than 60 years supported the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against humanity, there is currently no U.S. law prohibiting crimes against humanity. As a result, the government is generally unable to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity found in our country. This legislation will fix this loophole by enabling the Attorney General to prosecute crimes against humanity committed by a U.S. national, legal alien or habitual resident in the United States. The law will also enable the prosecution of any crimes against humanity committed in whole or in part within the United States, as well as offenses that occur outside the United States, if the offender is currently located in the United States.
The U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) would also urge to strengthen the bill, by denying all social security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, as well as any contracting opportunities with state, local and federal governments to those, convicted of crimes against humanity. Furthermore, any attempt to naturalization in the U.S. or getting a non-immigrant visa (including tourist visa) to the U.S. by those suspected or convicted in any court of law worldwide should be denied. There should be zero tolerance to those individuals and groups of individuals who have committed such high crimes.
Along with genocide and war crimes, crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes under international law. We see such crimes against humanity by groups or governments as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. These deplorable crimes include murder, enslavement, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, extermination, hostage taking, and ethnic cleansing, and they continue to take place around the world. Unfortunately, these events were widespread in our ancestral homeland in the South Caucasus, during the aggression by Armenia against Azerbaijan, and culminated in the town of Khojaly in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in February of 1992.
There, some 800 civilians of all ages were viciously slaughtered in just one night by the Armenian army, in what has become to be known as the largest ever massacre in the region in the second half of the 20th century. All in all, the Armenian aggression and occupation of 16% of Azerbaijan resulted in some 25,000 deaths of Azerbaijani civilians as well as 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP)’s.
It should be noted, that there is an important precedent in the United States in denying entrance and prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Azerbaijan by Armenian armed forces. According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), this government agency has deported a former lieutenant in the Armenian militia, Mr. Vigen Patatanyan, who admitted recruiting soldiers and providing arms to assist in the “persecution of the Azeri people”.
During his immigration proceedings, Patatanyan testified that he formerly served as a lieutenant in the Armenian militia and recruited soldiers to fight with him in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to Patatanyan, he brought supplies, including AK-47 rifles and ammunition, to soldiers engaged in battles at several locations in the war zone —“conflicts that resulted in the massacre of countless villagers”. This case prompted the following official reaction from a senior ICE official: “We will not allow this country to serve as a safe haven for those who have committed crimes against humanity,” said ICE San Diego Deputy Chief Counsel Alan Rabinowitz. “ICE is seeking to remove human rights violators of all nationalities who come here to evade prosecution for crimes they have committed in their home countries.” Patatanyan’s removal was part of ICE’s ongoing effort to identify, apprehend, prosecute, and remove human rights violators. (Inside ICE, Volume 2, Issue 21, October 17, 2005, http://www.ilw.com/weekly/editorial/2005,1024-ice.pdf). Attempts by Mr. Patatanyan to contest his deportation in court were also unsuccessful, and he had to drop his frivolous lawsuit (see: Patatanyan v. Ashcroft, U.S. District Court, Los Angeles, California, 2004, http://www.usdcdata.com/CACD/2/2004/cv00515.Patatanyan_v._Ashcroft_et_al/DS_1_04005151.html).
USAN is fully supporting the important work by the Senators and the “Crimes Against Humanity Act of 2009” legislation, and is pleased to see the constructive and enthusiastic support of ANCA and AAA to that same legislation. Our hope is that more criminals such as Mr. Patatanyan would be brought to justice for their crimes against humanity, against innocent Azerbaijani civilians in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. # # #
The U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) <http://www.usazeris.org/> is a registered non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian genuine grassroots advocacy and voter education network that is facilitating political activism and efforts by the Azerbaijani-Americans and other Turkic-Americans and their associations, organizations, councils, conferences, and other formal, semi-formal and informal groups, on federal, state and local levels. USAN is the first nationwide grassroots organization uniting Azerbaijani-Americans, being created by the grassroots, for the grassroots.