UPDATE 1 12h CET 12 June 2015 Platform have taken to the streets of London to protest the opening of the European Games. See a video of the action below, and read more in their book published Friday, All that glitters, which explores how the European Games belong to the Aliyev regime and the British oil company BP and how sport is being co-opted in the service of a dynasty and fossil fuels. ––––
Fidanka Bacheva McGrath, EBRD campaign coordinator | 10 June 2015
UPDATE 1 12h CET 12 June 2015
Platform have taken to the streets of London to protest the opening of the European Games. See a video of the action below, and read more in their book published Friday, All that glitters, which explores how the European Games belong to the Aliyev regime and the British oil company BP and how sport is being co-opted in the service of a dynasty and fossil fuels.
Yesterday afternoon, Emma Hughes, a friend and rights activist from the UK, was denied entry to Azerbaijan where she had gone to monitor Friday’s inaugural European Games.
Emma is a fierce critic of the Aliyev regime and its business allies in the oil and gas sector. In addition to the European Games, Emma planned to attend the appeal of imprisoned Azeri activist Rasul Jafarov, who is currently serving a six and a half year-sentence on trumped up charges. She was detained at the airport Tuesday afternoon and deported on an early flight today.
Emma works for Platform, a campaign group that targets oil and gas giant British Petroleum (BP), one of the European Games’ official partners and the largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan. “The future of this country is imprisoned, yet BP still works hand in hand with this regime”, Emma said from detention.
The EBRD has in certain instances limited its involvement with countries where democracy is being stifled. The EBRD’s continued investments in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector are a blatant disregard of basic democratic rights and a violation of its own mandate.
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This latest example of Azerbaijan’s intolerance for criticism (Amnesty International was also barred from entering the country today) should be another red flag for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), an important financier of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field, whose lead operator is BP.
In spite of its mandate to promote democracy, the EBRD has played a role in ensuring a steady stream of oil and gas revenues  for the authoritarian Aliyev regime. The bank approved in January 2014 its most recent loan to Lukoil operations at Shah Deniz, when the number of political prisoners was at its highest. A decision on another loan of USD 500 million for Shah Deniz is expected in July.
The development of Shah Deniz lays the foundations for the Southern Gas Corridor, a series of three import pipelines that are at the centre of the European Commission’s Energy Union. The EBRD actively promotes the pipeline, with bank officials publicly contemplating finance for this massive project.
Given this situation, the EBRD must immediately restrict lending to Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector.
Indeed, such a move would be in line with its own country strategy and recommendations from the IMF.
The EBRD has in certain instances limited its involvement with countries where democracy is being stifled. In Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the EBRD lends only to small-scale, private sector activities that do not provide significant support to the regimes.
With regards to Azerbaijan, however, the bank has so far avoided to show the same resolve.
With repression worsening in Azerbaijan and the Aliyev regime showing no sign of changing course, the EBRD’s continued investments in the country’s oil and gas sector are a blatant disregard of basic democratic rights and a violation of its own mandate.
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1. Rasul was arrested in August 2014 and charged with tax evasion, illegal enterprise and abuse of official power. In April 2015, following investigations and a trial full of shortcomings, he was sentenced to six and a half years in prison, even though reportedly all prosecution witnesses testified in favour of Rasul.
2. Where states do not rely on their citizenry for generating revenue, governments are more likely than others to use indiscriminate violations of personal integrity rights as a policy tool. A 2013 study examined this oft-observed “relationship between a state relying on oil and the violation of personal integrity rights” and found it to be “substantive and significant […] across all specifications and different indicators”.
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