Call for the immediate and unconditional release of activist and journalist Ogtay Gulaliyev
More than 40 partner organizations of Human Rights House Network and South Caucasus Network of human rights defenders call for the immediate and unconditional release and full rehabilitation of Azerbaijani activist Ogtay Gulaliyev.
Thursday, 17 May 2012
We, the undersigned members of the Human Rights House Network, are deeply concerned about the recent detention and ill-treatment of Ogtay Gulaliyev, the activist and journalist in Sabirabad region, Azerbaijan. We strongly believe that such repressive actions are linked to Ogtay Gulaliyev’s human rights activities and fight against corruption in Azerbaijan. We call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ogtay Gulaliyev and ensure his full rehabilitation.
We remind the Azerbaijani authorities of their commitment to take appropriate measures to combat corruption and to ensure transparency in the activities of government agencies and combating corruption as provided in paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 of National Program for Action to Raise Effectiveness of the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Republic of Azerbaijan. We strongly encourage the authorities to cooperate with such civil society organizations like Kura, which aims to assist the Azerbaijani authorities to achieve such objectives.
Ogtay Gulaliyev is the coordinator of the Kura Civil Society, which joins together several non-governmental organizations with the aim to assist the government to tackle the consequences of the May 2010 flooding. The flooding had severely damaged the districts of Sabirabad, Saatli, Imishli, Salyan, Kurdamir, Zardab, Hajigabul, Neftchala and Shirvan leaving more than 100’000 hectares of land and more than 20’000 homes under water.
In addition, Ogtay Gulaliyev is a member of the Monitoring Group of the Coalition “Improving Transparency in Extractive Industries”. He is the Chairperson of the Public Association for Democratic Reform and Chief editor of Transparency and Kura-Araz.
Ogtay Gulaliyev along with Kura personnel conducted public control over the equitable distribution of public funds allocated to compensate people affected by the devastating floods; their goal was to ensure transparency and combat corruption. Kura Civil Society regularly informed the victims of the floods on their respective rights and reported on identified fraud cases in the use of oil revenues. Through the activities of Ogtay Gyulaliyev and Kura, thousands of people received compensation, housing and other assistance, including legal aid when needed, which they had not been provided by the state before.
On 8 April 2012, the local police arrested Ogtay Gulaliyev in the Minbashi village of the Sabirabad district. He was taking part in the meeting with the local residents who had earlier held a protest demanding the authorities to ensure equitable distribution of compensation for victims of major flooding in south-eastern Azerbaijan, including Sabirabad. The arrest was based on the complaint of the head of the Minbashi municipality for alleged swearing in public. As a result, Gualiyev was charged with minor hooliganism under Article 296 of the Code of Administrative Offences and sentenced to 12 days administrative detention. Despite his request for a lawyer of his own choice, Ogtay Gulaliyev was refused of such a right. O. Gulaliyev refused to collaborate with the investigator at the Sabirabad police station and with the judicial authorities as a sign of protest for the the violation of his rights.
Ogtay Gulaliyev reported that soon after his arrest he was beaten by the deputy police chief Rauf Mejidov together with seven other police officers at the Sabirabad Regional Police Office. He was reportedly hit to the head and stomach, complained of dizziness and severe pains, and required urgent medical treatment. No investigation has been initiated yet.
On 19 April 2012, a day before the expiration of his administrative detention, Ogtay Gulaliyev was sentenced to another two months detention, accused with the new charges of “active disobedience to authorities’ legal orders” and “incitement to mass riots and to violence against citizens” (Article 220.2 of the Criminal Code). Ogtay Gulaliyev was not allowed to meet his lawyer for two weeks after the case was initiated. To date, he faces up to three years imprisonment.
The detention and ill-treatment of Ogtay Gulaliyev is a clear retaliation for his activism and fight against corruption and for social justice in Azerbaijan. His case shows the persistent practice in Azerbaijan to silence the critical voices of human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society activists and to perpetrate an environment of intimidation. Among others, two human rights defenders, Vivadi Iskandarov and Taleh Khasmammadov, and six journalists are currently held behind bars for voicing openly critical opinions.
We therefore call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to fully implement their international obligation to promote and protect the right to freedom of expression and urge them:
- To immediately and unconditionally release Ogtay Gulaliyev and fully rehabilitate him;
- To conduct a full, transparent and impartial investigation into his ill-treatment and bring those responsible to justice;
- To take effective measures to protect human rights defenders and allow them to conduct their human rights work without hindrance, as provided in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 9 December 1998.
- Armenian Helsinki Association
- Azerbaijan Human Rights House
- Association for Protection of Women's Rights (APWR)
- Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
- Media Rights Institute
- Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
- Legal Education Society
Human Rights House Belarus in exile (Vilnius)
- Human Rights House Sarajevo
- Association of Female Citizens "Renaissance"
- Foundation CURE
- Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Regional Co-ordinator for Youth Groups
- Serb Civic Council
- Woman and Society Centre
- Human Rights House Zagreb
- APEO/UPIM Association for Promotion of Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities
- Be Active Be Emancipated B.a.B.e.
- CMS - Centre for Peace Studies
- Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past
- GOLJP - Civic Committee for Human Rights
- Svitanje - Association for Protection and Promotion of Mental Health
- Human Rights House Tbilisi
- Article 42 of the Constitution
- The Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies (CAUCASIA)
- The Human Rights Centre Georgia (HRIDC)
- The Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT
- Union Sapari - Family without Violence
- Human Rights House Oslo
- Health and Human Rights Info
- Human Rights House Foundation
- Norwegian Burma Committee
- Norwegian Helsinki Committee
- Norwegian Tibet Committee
- Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland
- Russian Research Center for Human Rights
- Human Rights Network Group
- Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia
- Moscow Centre for Prison Reform
- Moscow Helsinki Group
- Mother's Right Foundation
- Non-violence International
- Right of the Child
- Right to Live and have Civil Dignity
- Social Partnership Foundation
- Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia
- Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
- Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
- Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUCOM Serbia
- Institute for Peace and Democracy, Azerbaijan
- Human Rights Club, Azerbaijan
- Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy, Azerbaijan
- Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
- Article 19, UK
- Index on Censorship, UK
- Prosecutor Office of Sabirabad region
- Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan
- Sabirabad Region Executive Power
- Commission on Combating Corruption of the Republic of Azerbaijan
- Members of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan
- Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg
- Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg
- UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Geneva
- UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
- Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE ODIHR), Warsaw
- OSCE office in Baku
- Delegation of the European Union in Azerbaijan
- Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, Brussels
- International diplomatic community
- European Broadcasting Union
About the Human Rights House Network (www.humanrightshouse.org)
The Human Rights House Network is a forum of cooperation between established and emerging Human Rights Houses, uniting 90 NGOs in 15 countries in Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, East and Horn of Africa, and Western Europe. HRHN´s aim is to protect, empower and support human rights defenders and their organizations. The Human Rights House Foundation, based in Oslo (Norway) and Geneva (Switzerland), is the secretariat of the Human Rights House Network.
The Azerbaijan Human Rights House (AHRH) is a member of the Human Rights House Network and was officially registered in 2007 and opened in Baku in 2009. Eight local human rights organisations are partners of AHRH and organizers of the events, which have become increasingly popular among human rights defenders, victims of human rights violations, journalists, lawyers and youth. In 2010 alone, it held more than 250 events, received more than 6000 visitors, and raised public awareness through press conferences, round tables, film screenings, and seminars. In March 2011, AHRH was ordered to seize all activities until an agreement was made with the Azerbaijani authorities. AHRH remains closed to this date.
 Article 12 of the Declaration