Azerbaijan: Still a not-free-state
Numerous violations of human rights show that ensuring effective compliance with human rights is a serious challenge to Baku.
Thursday, 15 December 2011, by HRH
The Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) shares the concerns of the Polish based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights on the situation for human rights in Azerbaijan and the lack of willingness to discuss human rights issues in the dialogue between EU and Azerbaijani authorities.
Demonstrators detained by police, Baku, march 2011. Within the framework of Eastern Partnership, an organization and a forum aiming to improve the political and economic trade-relations between the European Union and six former Soviet states, there were held a conference last week.
Although a number of important organizations and institutions participated from both European Union and Azerbaijani side participated, no human rights issues were raised.
- A NUMBER OF HUMAN RIGHS VIOLATIONS
We would therefore like to highlight that these questions should be of crucial importance, especially in view of the disturbing reports that come from Azerbaijan.
In order to discuss these issues it seems vital to have representatives of independent non-governmental organizations during the conference.
In the Freedom House report of 2011, Azerbaijan once again is referred to as a state that is “not-free”: Numerous violations of human rights show that ensuring effective compliance with human rights is a serious challenge to Baku. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights on many occasions expressed its opinion on a number of human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
The goal of this statement is to draw attention to different kinds of abuses that took place in this country.
CLOSED DOWN THE HUMAN RIGHTS HOUSE
A number of violations can be seen in the context of the exercise of freedom of association (Article 11 ECHR). This is due to the actions taken by the authorities, but also inadequate legal provisions.
The government of Azerbaijan, pointed to the need to limit the activities of Azerbaijani NGOs in international fora, including at a meeting of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in January 2011.
Moreover on 10 March 2011 Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan closed down the Human Rights House (member of an international organization, the Human Rights House Network), removing the organization from the register.
The basis for the closure was the amendment to the Act of 2009, requiring international NGOs operating in Azerbaijan to obtain authorization of the state.
ALL PERSONAL EQUIPMENT DESTROYED
Demolition of the office of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and the Women’s Crisis Center that took place on 11 August 2011 is an extreme example of impending the functioning of human rights organizations.
Demolition of the officeson 11 August 2011.Request for more time in order to bring equipment and documents out from the building were denied. The private property of the IPD directors, as well as all computers, office appliances, documents, a library and a private archive that were inside the building, were completely destroyed.
Demolition of the building was executed despite the Baku Administrative Economic Court´s ruling in 24 May 2011, which stated the inadmissibility of destruction of the building without the final court decision.
The legislation on non-governmental organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan has been scrutinize by the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission).
According to the Commission The Law on NGOs adopted in 2000 and amended in 2009 as well as The Decree No. 43 issued in 2011 do not meet the European standards.
ARREST OVER NAGORNO-KARABAKH
They create a lengthy and complicated registration procedure, they introduce the requirement of the minimal nominal capital that is necessary for the establishment of funds, this nominal capital amount to approximately 9000 EUR, in addition, the procedure is centralized: all the NGO’s must register at the Ministry of Justice Office in Baku, despite the fact the Ministry of Justice has branches in the different regions.
It has also been stressed that the provisions concerning the liability and dissolution of NGOs are drafted in an unclear manner.
Also freedom of expression, guaranteed by article 10 of the ECHR, is subject to numerous restrictions. The arrest of Eynulla Fatullayev for publishing two articles in the local press was a glaring example of this.
The first article was published in April 2005 and described the events in Nagorno-Karabakh. Proceedings for defamation were initiated against the journalist.
The second article, spoke of the President Ilham Aliyev, and was published in 2007. In the two proceedings Mr. Fatullayev was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment.
APPEALS FROM NGOS
In the judgment of 22 April 2010, ECtHR found this to be a violation of article 10 of ECHR and ordered the journalist to be freed (he regained freedom after 4 years of imprisonment).
The Court pointed out that in a democratic state there is no justification for the imposition of a prison sentence for the exercise of freedom of expression.
The Court also noted that there has been a violation of article 6 § 1 of the Convention – the case was not dealt with by an impartial tribunal, because one of the judges was involved in a civil law suit against the journalist, and of article 6 § 2 (presumption of innocence) – one of the high officials made a public statement declaring the journalist guilty before the judgments was issued.
Despite the clear signal from the ECHR and the numerous appeals of international NGOs, the journalist was detained in prison for many months after the ruling.
MURDER AND ARRESTS
Other examples of violation of freedom of expression include:
- The murder of journalist Elmar Huseynova, circumstances of which have not been explained.
- The sentencing of two bloggers, Adnan Hadjizadeha and Emin Milli, for criticizing the government on the Internet.
- Convicting at least 30 people for participating in peaceful protest against the authorities in March 2011 (their trials were classified, not everyone had access to lawyer).
In light of these drastic forms of human rights violations, the dialogue on human rights is undoubtedly one of the challenges faced by the European Union and Azerbaijan.
Respect for human rights and democracy in the countries of the Eastern Partnership was also a key element of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council.
In connection with the conference held on 13 December 2011, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights wishes to draw attention to the lack of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan, as well as to recall the need to include them in the bilateral dialogue.
Numerous violations of human rights show that ensuring effective compliance with human rights is a serious challenge to Baku. »
Population: 8,7 million
Official language: Azerbaijani
Presidential republic, head of state since 2003: Ilham Aliyev.
- On the 13th of December 2011 the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), The Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SAM) in cooperation with The National School of Public Administration (KSAP) and the Embassy of Azerbaijan held a conference - "EU Eastern Partnership – Azerbaijan: Challenges and Perspectives”.
- The conference was organized within the framework of Eastern Partnership, whose goal is to tighten the economic links between the EU and six post Soviet Union states - Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as to promote democracy, good governance and human rights.
- Since the program of the conference didn't provide time for the discussion on human rights issues, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights wish to highlight that these questions should be of crucial importance.
- Azerbaijan is bound by the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR); on 15 April 2002 it ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Ane Bonde, regional director XXX
+47 44 44 44 44
Azeri Azeri, head of Human Rights Office, Baku, Azerbaijan
+58 58 58 58 58 58