Posts Tagged ‘Azerbaijan’

Human Rights Day: exceptional chance to put questions to 3 women human rights defenders

December 9, 2014

To mark Human Rights Day tomorrow, Wednesday 10 December, the Guardian organises a live chat with three women human rights defenders who will answer your questions on their campaigning work and the challenges they face in uncovering abuses. The panel looks most promising:

Read the rest of this entry »

Azerbaijan replies to critical NGO comments

November 21, 2014

Last week I published a post https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/time-for-azerbaijan-to-quit-the-council-of-europe/. Now a strong reply has come from the government’s side (through lkhan Suleymanov, Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA) which tries to counter the criticism by focusing mostly on the position taken by the European Stability Initiative, strangely ignoring all the other sources which said similar things. On 21 November, /PRNewswire/ summarized the statement as follows (the last two paragraphs invoking the occupation of Azerbaijani territories would seem to weaken the case): Read the rest of this entry »

Time for Azerbaijan to quit the Council of Europe !

November 14, 2014

This video clip is an excellent introduction to the the question of whether Azerbaijan still belongs in the Council of Europe.

Azerbaijan wrapped up its chairmanship on November 13 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan took over as chair of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s executive arm and decision-making body, back in May. Over the course of its six-month term, authorities in Baku bullied and imprisoned scores of  journalists and human rights defenders, jailing some of the country’s most prominent such as Leyla and Arif Yunus, on trumped-up charges. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov attended a ceremony in Strasbourg on November 13 marking the transfer of the chairmanship from Azerbaijan to Belgium. A document posted on the Council of Europe’s website states that “Azerbaijan deployed considerable efforts in furthering the objectives of the Council of Europe around its three key pillars – human rights, rule of law and democracy.”

This assertion makes a mockery of reality as shown by the statements of a great many actors from international NGOs, OSCE to regional defenders networks:

  • Giorgi Gogia, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch: “It can be said without exaggeration that Azerbaijan’s tenure represented an assault on the institution and everything it [the Council of Europe] stands for”.
  • Two regional networks, the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders, addressed an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev, detailing government rights abuses and calling for immediate changes. “We specifically call upon you [Aliyev] to immediately and unconditionally release all civil society actors currently detained due to their engagement in human rights activities and for raising critiques against Azerbaijan’s authorities”.
  • Another rights network called the Civic Solidarity Platform released the No More Business as Usual video at the top of this post,  urging policymakers in European Union member states to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its rights violations. “It is a disgrace Azerbaijan used its chairmanship … not to improve its human right record, but, on the contrary, to jail activists and journalists and to get further away from international standards of democracy and rule of law.”
  • Dunja Mijatovic, media representative of the normally careful 57-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement “Practically all independent media representatives and media NGOs have been purposefully persecuted under various, often unfounded and disturbing charges“. [She spoke after Azeri blogger Mehman Huseynov was detained at Baku international airport earlier in the day while trying to depart for Georgia to attend the 11th South Caucasus Media Conference on the invitation of the OSCE. Huseynov was released after several hours of questioning. In 2012 he was hit with a three-year travel ban after being convicted of resisting and insulting police.
  • Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on 31 October cited the case of Azerbaijani human rights defender and journalist Khadija Ismayilova in calling on OSCE participating States to refrain from pressuring or harassing individuals for their legitimate activities in supporting the promotion and protection of human rights. “Ismayilova was detained and questioned at the end of September upon returning from the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, where she raised concerns over failures by the Azerbaijani authorities to meet the country’s commitments in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Link said. “I raised her case yesterday in my first report to the OSCE Permanent Council, stressing that human rights defenders have to be able to work free of harassment and intimidation.” A clear case of reprisal!
  • The Sakharov Freedom Award went to 98 Azeri prisoners: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/sakharov-freedom-award-goes-to-98-azeri-political-prisoners/
  • Several other human rights defenders were sentenced to varying prison terms earlier this year on charges included tax evasion, illegal business activity and hooliganism. Defense lawyers called the charges unfounded and politically motivated. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/

Among the many sources used:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/10/us-azerbaijan-rights-idUSKCN0IU1TG20141110

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/70901

No more business as usual for Azerbaijan – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

http://www.osce.org/odihr/126225

http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/20559.html

Sakharov Freedom Award Goes to 98 Azeri Political Prisoners

October 11, 2014

October is awards season, so you should know that the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award recognizes 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. [Note : there is also the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize – of more info please go to: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards]

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Secretary General, Bjørn Engesland, announced the award in Oslo on 6 October, noting the sad fact that Azerbaijan’s political prisoners “are too numerous to all be mentioned here.” The Committee has documented 98 political prisoners, among them 13 journalists and bloggers.  In addition, the prisoners include 10 human rights defenders and civil society activists, nine youth activists, a prominent opposition leader, “and many other opposing voices and religious activists.” The Committee noted that Azerbaijan assumed the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers this year.“Just weeks after Azerbaijan took over the chairmanship in May 2014, a new wave of detention of activists started. In what appears as a sign of contempt against the Council of Europe institutions, this wave in particular hit human rights defenders who have worked hard with the Council for the recognition and release of Azerbaijani political prisoners.

via Sakharov Prize Goes to Azeri Political Prisoners.

UN special rapporteurs join calls on Azerbaijan

August 20, 2014

Yesterday,19 August 2014, three United Nations human rights experts [The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye] alsoy condemned the growing tendency to prosecute prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and urged the Government “to show leadership and reverse the trend of repression, criminalization and prosecution of human rights work in the country.” Yesterday I referred to the UN expert group on business and human rights (currently in the country, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/un-expert-group-on-business-and-human-rights-on-timely-visit-to-azerbaijan/) and reports of several major NGOs (see my post of yesterday: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/)

The UN experts highlighted the specific cases of Leyla Yunus, director of the Azerbaijani Institute of Peace and Democracy; Arif Yunus, head of Conflict Studies in the Institute of Peace and Democracy; Rasul Jafarov, coordinator of Art of Democracy and head of Human Rights Club; and Intigam Aliyev, chair of Legal Education Society. “Azerbaijan’s recent membership of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations does not square well with the authorities’ actions directed at stifling freedoms on the ground,” the UN rights experts noted.

UN experts call on the Government of Azerbaijan | Scoop News.

UN expert group on business and human rights on timely visit to Azerbaijan

August 18, 2014

In relation to my post this morning about the hot summer in Azerbaijan [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/] it is relevant to note that the UN expert group on business and human rights is visiting this country for the first time. The information provided by the different NGOs clearly points to a huge problem in preventing and protecting against business-related human rights abuses.

 

The United Nations group of independent experts undertakes its first official visit to Azerbaijan from 18 to 27 August 2014 to examine the impact of business activities on human rights in the country. [The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, offer clarity and guidance for authorities and companies to prevent and address adverse impacts of business activities on human rights. They re-affirm States’ existing obligations to protect against human rights abuse by third parties, including businesses. They also clarify the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need to ensure that victims have access to effective remedy.]

They group will hold a press conference to share with the media preliminary observations from their visit at 13h30 on Wednesday 27 August 2014 at UN House, UN 50th Anniversary Street 3, Baku. The official report is to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Mr. Michael Addo (Ghana), Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta (Colombia), Ms. Margaret Jungk (USA), Mr. Puvan Selvanathan (Malaysia) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (Russian Federation). The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. Its members serve in their personal capacities. They are not UN staff members and do not receive a salary for their work.)

See: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

 

Azerbaijan: a hot summer in summary

August 18, 2014

An array of international human rights organisations have over the last weeks focused on Azerbaijan. These four reports together give a shocking picture of the kind of repression that awaits human rights defenders: Read the rest of this entry »

Azerbaijani lawyers and human rights defenders trained to train others

February 25, 2014

Twenty trainers from among Azerbaijani lawyers and human rights defenders have been trained to apply the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Revised European Social Charter (RESC), with a particular focus on anti-discrimination standards, AzerTag state news agency reported. The last of three four-day training sessions for Trainers took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 20-23 February.

Twenty lawyers and human rights defenders were selected for training via competition to share their experiences with colleagues through a series of cascade trainings, which will start in March 2014 and continue even after the joint project of the Council of Europe and European Union is completed. The Justice Academy of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the key local partner in this project.

This activity is one of the most important activities within the capacity building project for lawyers and human rights defenders, and I believe that the advocates and human rights defenders attending this programme have obtained essential benefit from the shared knowledge and they will put this knowledge and information into practice …” said Teymur Malik-Aslanov of the Council of Europe Office in Azerbaijan.

[This activity is a regional project implemented in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.]

via CoE, EU train Azerbaijani lawyers – AzerNews.

 

 

Human rights defender Ilham Amiraslanov: early release from prison in Azerbaijan

December 20, 2013

On 9 December 2013, Ihlam Amiraslanov was granted early release from prison after serving two-thirds of his sentence. He had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for illegal possession of weapons on 12 September 2012 in Sabirabad District Court. Ilham Amiraslanov is an active member of Kura Civil Union and a prominent figure in the movement for justice for the victims of the flooding of the Kura River in May 2010. On 8 June 2012, Ilham Amiraslanov was arrested by police officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. On 12 September 2012, he received a two-year prison sentence under the Azerbaijan Criminal Code. This conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal. Ilham Amiraslanov’s trial was marked by serious irregularities, including the refusal by the judge to hear the defense witnesses. Ilham Amiraslanov’s lawyer stated that the charges were politically motivated and that neither the investigation nor the trial were conducted objectively.

For more information on this case, see Ilham Amiraslanov’s page on the Front Line Defenders website.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

Azerbaijan: Update – Human rights defender, Mr Ilham Amiraslanov, released from prison | Front Line.

“Friend Of Journalists” Award goes to Azeri President !

November 27, 2013

The misuse of of human rights awards is also noteworthy as seen in the post by Miriam Berger of Buzzfeed who reports on 26 November that Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president has been awarded a “Friend of Journalists” prize by local media. President Ilham Aliyev received the award — his second — in an elaborate ceremony on November 24. The survey was conducted by the Azerbaijani [!] Committee for Protection of Journalists, as well as other media representatives. He won 89% of the votes. At the acceptance ceremony, Aliyev spoke of his democratic reforms in the country. “Azerbaijan has a free media,” he said. …That few inside Azerbaijan objected may be linked to the fact that many journalists and human rights defenders are in detention or harassed into silence. Read the rest of this entry »