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Clinton is scheduled to visit the three countries from June 4 to 7 and will meet with Presidents Sargisian, Saakashvili and Aliyev, other senior government officials and civil society leaders of each nation, according to the State Department press statement. Additionally, in Georgia the Secretary will open the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission plenary session. In all three countries, she plans to discuss "important issues of regional security, democracy, economic development and counterterrorism," the statement said.
“Encouraging and supporting democratically accountable systems in the Caucasus region is essential,” said Freedom House president David J. Kramer. “While we realize there are a range of policy interests to be discussed during the trip, Freedom House calls for a particular emphasis on the ongoing concerns about human rights and democracy throughout the region, especially in Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
Freedom House urges Secretary Clinton to address the following human rights issues in bilateral meetings:
- In Azerbaijan, the authorities intimidated political activists, used force to break up antigovernment demonstrations, jailed opposition leaders in a series of deeply flawed trials, and tried to neutralize international press, continuing the long-term trend of suppressing virtually any meaningful open public debate.
- Despite repeated pledges of reform by the Armenian government, the country’s reform ambitions are hampered by the deep relationship between politics and business, which effectively prevents the advancement of greater accountability and transparency.
- Georgia affords some but not all of the institutional safeguards and holds promise for more meaningful reform, if the right steps are taken. The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Georgia present a test for civil society in Georgia to develop more effective and mature political platforms.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2012 survey, and in Freedom of the Press 2012, which ranks it 172nd out of 197 countries for media freedom.
Armenia is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012, which ranks it 149th out of 197 countries.
Georgia is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012, and in Freedom of the Press 2012, which ranks it 111th out of 197 countries.
On June 6, Freedom House will release findings from its annual Nations in Transit report which provides analysis of democratic development in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.