At last week’s Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, high level officials highlighted key human rights messages. The Bank’s president, Takehiko Nakao, emphasized the importance of free speech for sustainable development in response to concerns about the bank financing governments engaged in broad and brutal crackdowns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the ADB’s host, said supply chains should be free from labor abuses and welcomed the bank’s new commitment to International Labour Organization standards on supply chains. But the bank has a long way to go to turn rhetoric into reality.
Azerbaijan’s government has been waging a repressive campaign against critics, a dramatic deterioration in an already poor rights record. It has arrested or imprisoned dozens of human rights defenders, journalists, and bloggers on politically motivated charges, prompting others to flee the country or go into hiding. The government has frozen bank accounts of independent civic groups and their leaders, in some cases forcing them to shut down.
Although, since March, the authorities have pardoned or conditionally released over a dozen activists and journalists imprisoned on politically motivated charges, many others remain behind bars. The authorities have unfrozen the bank accounts of some nongovernmental groups and their leaders. But existing legislative restrictions make it effectively impossible for these groups both to use the funds in their accounts and to receive foreign funding.