Challenges: Azerbaijan is a secular, Western-oriented state with a Shia Muslim-majority population and is the only country bordering both Russia and Iran. Azerbaijan still retains some of its inherited Soviet institutions and practices and struggles to advance democratically and improve its rule of law. It faces threats to regional peace, such as the four-day conflict that took place between Armenia and Azerbaijan on April 1, 2016. Ongoing challenges include slow progress overall in institutional reform, particularly in areas of police reform, anti-corruption, transnational crime, improving the Criminal Procedure Code, and building institutional capacities in civil society and government. The country has made efforts to draft legislation addressing related issues of concern such as: anti-corruption; government ethical codes; money laundering; human trafficking; domestic violence; and anti-terrorism.

Goals: INL assistance programs are dedicated to improving and strengthening the criminal justice system to prevent, investigate, and successfully prosecute domestic and transnational crimes. Programs include a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) project that focuses on key areas of prevention, prosecution, protection and reintegration of actual and potential victims of trafficking as well as partnership-building among civil society organizations at the national and international levels. On rule of law, INL supports, through training and technical assistance, justice sector reform efforts in the application of the Criminal Code, European Court of Human Rights mechanisms, and prosecution of anti-money laundering/counter terrorism finance cases. INL also supports skills development and continuing legal education instruction for defense attorneys and other legal professionals on European Court of Human Rights case law and criminal procedure tools. INL assistance also supports E-Learning programs designed to strengthen democratic principles, rule of law, and human rights.

Accomplishments: Using the investigative skills and prosecutorial strategies imparted at INL-funded training programs, Azerbaijani prosecutors successfully conducted the nation’s first ever labor TIP case in 2013. Specifically, a labor trafficker, whose crime impacted the lives of 17 victims, was convicted and received a sentence of over 8 years. Four additional labor trafficking cases are currently being prosecuted thanks to USG assistance in this critical area. These results mark a major improvement in Azerbaijan’s posture on one of the United States international human-rights priorities.