British Petroleum under scrutiny for enabling ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Paul Vartan Sookiasian

British Petroleum (BP) has come under scrutiny for enabling the abuses of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s autocratic regime. The Washington, D.C.-based coalition No Business With Genocide, which works to stop corporations from funding or profiting from genocide and other mass atrocities, has made BP a main of focus of its campaign.

In a petition addressed to BP’s Interim CEO Murray Auchincloss, the coalition points out that BP has been “conspicuously silent” about the ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. As such, it accuses the oil giant of complicity in these crimes. BP has invested nearly $84 billion in Azerbaijan since entering the country in the early 1990s.

No Business With Genocide cites recently expanded United Nations guidelines for businesses operating in conflict zones. The guidelines note that businesses need to “identify and assess their adverse impacts on human rights and conflict, act to cease or prevent them, and track and communicate the measures taken.” This is in direct opposition to the United Kingdom’s encouragement of British businesses to take part in construction projects in Karabakh, which the UK called the “biggest commercial opportunity outside of oil and gas” in Azerbaijan.

BP in Azerbaijan is one of three corporations targeted by this campaign, along with Volkswagen’s factory in Xinxiang, China, where evidence has emerged of Uyghur forced labor in the supply chain, and Bulgari for purchasing gems from Myanmar where the ruling junta is accused of genocide against the Rohingya population.

The aim of the No Business With Genocide campaign is “to pressure key corporations to adopt a policy of not doing business with regimes complicit in genocide and/or crimes against humanity” through pressure from shareholders and consumers. It notes that governments like Azerbaijan rely on the investments of foreign corporations, and thus the threat of withdrawal by key ones can serve as a deterrent against further abuse.

This is just the latest example of organizations and global leaders seeking accountability from Azerbaijan for its human rights abuses. Earlier this month, chairperson of the influential international organization The Elders and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson called on the global community to “expect more” from Azerbaijan in the run-up to its hosting of this year’s COP29 climate summit. As a well-regarded voice for peace, justice, and human rights, Robinson carries weight when she declared “turning a blind eye to the regime’s record of human rights violations is not an option.”

Pressure on Azerbaijan is expected to mount as November’s summit approaches, bringing the country and along with its human rights and environmental records into the spotlight.

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