Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Azerbaijan

Overview: In 2017, Azerbaijan was a strong counterterrorism partner to the United States. Azerbaijan’s government actively worked to detect and defeat terrorist efforts to move people, money, and materials across its land and maritime borders and within the South Caucasus. Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services conducted operations to disrupt and prevent terror attacks, arrested and prosecuted suspected terrorists, and prosecuted returning Azerbaijanis who had joined terrorist groups fighting outside Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani counterterrorism cooperation significantly reduced the risk of terrorist attacks against tourist locations frequented by U.S. citizens and U.S. economic interests in Azerbaijan.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, Azerbaijan expanded the legal definition of terrorists and terrorism. According to the amended law, “A terrorist is one who, directly or indirectly, takes part in a terrorist activity as an organizer, instigator, assistant, or actor, or one who masterminds a terrorist act or attempts to carry it out or assists an organized criminal group with carrying out terrorist acts.” The law previously described a terrorist as “one who takes part in the carrying out of a terrorist activity in any way.” The amended law provides that “a terrorist organization is an organization created for the purpose of carrying out terrorist acts or considering the option of terrorism probable in carrying out its activities. If a structural unit of an organization engages in terrorist activities with the permission of management, the organization is considered to be a terrorist organization.”

Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services have demonstrated the capacity to detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism in Azerbaijan’s territory. Responsibility for counterterrorism is vested in several government agencies. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) is Azerbaijan’s primary law enforcement agency, and its Organized Crime Unit is tasked with leading the Ministry’s counterterrorism efforts. The MIA cooperates closely with the State Security Service (SSS), Azerbaijan’s domestic intelligence and counterterrorism service. The SSS is responsible for identifying and preventing criminal activities by terrorist groups, and countering international terrorism and transnational crimes. The State Border Service (SBS) and State Customs Committee (SCC) jointly manage border security, and interdict terrorist efforts to move people, money, and materials – including weapons of mass destruction – across Azerbaijan’s land and maritime borders. The SBS is responsible for defending oil platforms against terrorism. The Prosecutor General’s Office is responsible for prosecuting suspects accused of terrorism, conspiracy to commit and aid terrorism, and other terrorism-related crimes. The government continued to cite “countering violent extremism” as a justification for incarcerating members of the secular and religious political opposition whom it alleges are “religious extremists.” We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and Report on International Religious Freedom for 2017 for further information.

Azerbaijan used terrorist and criminal watchlists and biographic/biometric screening at some ports of entry. Azerbaijan’s law enforcement and security services shared information among themselves, and with regional and international partners.

In 2017, Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services reported preventing several potential terrorist attacks, including:

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The government’s Financial Monitoring Service is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2017, Azerbaijan continued implementing its “National Action Plan for 2017-2019 on combatting criminally acquired money, legalization of other properties, and financing of terrorism.”

On June 29, Azerbaijan’s Parliament ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Azerbaijan does not have a formal national CVE strategy, but state bodies such as the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations and the Caucasus Muslim Board work to prevent radicalization to violence in Azerbaijan’s religious communities. The State Committee conducts informational campaigns around the country on the dangers of terrorist recruitment. In 2017, the Azerbaijani government cooperated with a U.S. government assessment of the level of risk posed by terrorist organizations and the potential for terrorist ideologies to gain ground in Azerbaijan.

International and Regional Cooperation: Azerbaijan maintained membership in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other international bodies. Azerbaijan hosted the 4th Annual World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, aimed at building societies based on equal opportunities as well as an inclusive framework of tolerance and respect for diversity. Azerbaijan also continued supporting North Atlantic Treaty Organization counterterrorism initiatives as one of the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace countries.

Azerbaijan continued efforts to improve Afghan security and stability by co-chairing the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process; as its co-Chair, Azerbaijan hosted senior officials’ meetings and a Ministerial Conference. Azerbaijan also hosted a working group meeting that highlighted the role of narcotics traffickers in financing terrorism.