Tony Cárdenas

09/23/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/24/2021 08:16

Cárdenas Amendment Demanding Baku Release of Armenian Prisoners Passes in Annual House Defense Bill

September 23, 2021

Cárdenas Amendment Demanding Baku Release of Armenian Prisoners Passes in Annual House Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes an amendment introduced by Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and co-led by Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-28) and Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-30). The amendment requiresa report from the Secretary of Defense on the use of U.S. technology in Turkish drones deployed by Azerbaijan against Nagorno Karabakh in 2020, on any illegal use of munitions against civilians and on efforts by Turkey and Azerbaijan to recruit foreign terrorist fighters to participate in the attacks. It also makes clear that Azerbaijan must immediately and unconditionally return all Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians.

"It is critical that we get a full accounting of the facts as we look to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its actions in Nagorno Karabakh last year," said Congressman Cardenas. "I am glad to have worked closely with Reps. Schiff and Sherman to produce an amendment that does exactly that. This report is critical to getting a clear picture of the extent of Azerbaijan's actions and any potential violations of international law. Additionally, it will make clear that the United States Congress expects Azerbaijan to honor its obligation to carry out the unconditional return of any remaining Armenian prisoners of war safely to Armenia. I am thankful for the bipartisan group of cosponsors that has joined us in this effort, and will work hard to see that the report gets done."

"It is unconscionable that as we approach the one-year anniversary of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan continues to illegally detain Armenian servicemembers and captured civilians - a reality made even more horrific by ongoing reports that these prisoners of war are subject to torture in violation of international human rights conventions," said Congressman Schiff. "With this amendment, we are making it absolutely clear to the Aliyev regime that they have the obligation to release these prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and that the Biden administration should take every possible diplomatic action, including through the OSCE Minsk Group, to hold them to account."

"This amendment is critical in our efforts to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its heinous acts of aggression last year against the people of Armenia and Artsakh," said Congressman Sherman. "I was pleased to work with Congressmen Cardenas and Schiff and many others on this amendment that aims to uncover the full extent of Azerbaijan's actions, and sends a strong message calling on Azerbaijan to honor its obligation for the unconditional and safe return to Armenia of any remaining Armenian prisoners of war."

The bipartisan amendment was also cosponsored by Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Young Kim (R-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Andy Levin (D-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Katie Porter (D-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV) and David Valadao (R-CA). The full text of the amendment is available here.

This legislation includes a number of important priorities that Democrats fought for and secured, including:

  • Vital benefits for Servicemembers and their families, including a 2.7 percent pay increase, expanded parental leave, improved mental health care services and a new basic needs allowance for lower-income Servicemembers.
  • Combating sexual assault in the military by creating an Office of Special Victim Prosecutor to prosecute these crimes, removing the commanding officer from these decisions and finally criminalizing sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • Significant investments in emerging technologies to modernize institutions of national security, including a 36 percent increase in defense-wide research and development, as well as new funding to improve DOD research labs.
  • Action on the climate crisis by removing barriers to improving the extreme weather resilience of critical defense infrastructure and requiring the DOD to consider climate risks in its strategic planning.
  • Addressing strategic and security challenges, ranging from competition with China, to the risks posed by violent extremism and white nationalism, to strengthening our cybersecurity infrastructure, to strengthening the provisions providing for the needs of our Afghan partners with Special Immigrant Visas.
  • Recruiting a stronger, fairer, more diverse Armed Services by promoting academic partnerships with minority-serving colleges and universities, rooting out extremism among Servicemembers and establishing a $15 minimum wage for covered DOD service and construction contracts.