Human Rights Council 31: Statement on Human Rights Defenders
The Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on good practices on the protection of human rights defenders and his consultative work with civil society organisations.The protection of human rights defenders is an essential part of the obligations that international human rights law imposes on States.
Friday, 04 March 2016, by humanrightshous.org
Statement delivered at the 31st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, 3 March 2016.
Item 3. Interactive dialogue with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Human Rights House Foundation statement
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Thank you, Mr Chairperson,
The Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on good practices on the protection of human rights defenders and his consultative work with civil society organisations. As stated by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in his report (A/HRC/31/55) the protection of human rights defenders is an essential part of the obligations that international human rights law imposes on States.
Mr. Special Rapporteur,
We welcome your communications to the Government of Azerbaijan We welcome your communications to the Government of Azerbaijan expressing serious concerns about the situation of human rights defenders, following a year marked by the authorities pursuing a crackdown on independent human rights voices and continuously persecuting human rights defenders within the country.
It is eight months since the Human Rights Council spoke out against the crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan at the session in June, buoyed by the attention bought to the country by the European Games. The situation has not improved, as evidenced by mounting calls and worrying reports from international human rights mechanisms, including UN independent thematic experts and the Office of the High Commissioner.
Azerbaijan continues to ignore repeated calls for it to end its crackdown on civil society by international organizations and human rights mechanisms, and has even publicly questioned the authority of the UN High Commissioner.
In February 2016 the Azerbaijan Supreme Court upheld the politically motivated sentences of imprisoned human rights defender Rasul Jafarov and human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev.
We are gravely concerned that the Azerbaijan authorities continue to harass and unjustly punish human rights lawyers for representing the leading civil society actors arrested since the summer of 2014. These lawyers face disbarment, travel bans, and judicial harassment, and Intigam Aliyev’s imprisonment is an ever-present reminder of such repression. We are also deeply troubled by the authorities’ failure to fully investigate the murder of investigative journalist Rasim Aliyev. Independent observers were not allowed into the court room and the Baku Grave Crimes Court rejected a motion for additional witnesses.
The Human Rights House Foundation has repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of Intigam Aliyev and other arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, journalists, and activists, such as Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Khadija Ismayilova, the N!DA youth activists, Ilgar Mammadov, Rauf Mirkadirov, and Hilal Mammadov, and for all charges to be dropped against them, including those against Leyla and Arif Yunus, who were recently released from prison. The Human Rights Council must apply the UN’s principle of universality and act on Azerbaijan – a country where human rights violations have reached a level that calls for universal attention. States must request a High Commissioner inspection of the country’s situation, thereby showing the Republic of Azerbaijan that the Council takes seriously the crackdown on civil society in the country.
Mr Special Rapporteur,
We also express concern at the increasing harassment and hate speech directed at human rights defenders in the Republic of Armenia.
On 15 February 2016, in central Yerevan, unidentified persons physically assaulted five LGBT activists, including members of the non-governmental organization PINK Armenia. On 19 February, the human rights defender Vardges Gaspari was detained for several days and subjected to torture by his cellmates. Young activist Artak Gevorgyan, a member of Hakaharvats ("Backlash") artistic activist group, faces charges of up to two years in prison for one of his performances. We call upon the Armenian authorities to investigate cases of attacks and harassment against human rights defenders, including LGBT rights defenders, and to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable.
Finally, we call upon the Armenian authorities to take a positive stand towards human rights organisations, especially when they are critical towards the government’s policies. We call upon Armenian leaders to publicly express support for the work of human rights defenders, especially when they are the targets of violence or hate speech.
Thank you, Mr Chairperson.