At least 50 people were detained in Baku
The crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and activists continue in Baku (capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan), on the eve of the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Friday, 25 May 2012, by HRHF
Press release of the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
Baku, Oslo and Geneva, 25 May 2012
Today 25 May 2012, police arrested at least 50 peaceful protesters, when they attempted to hold a demonstration in the centre of Baku. Civilian and uniformed police broke up the attempt to hold a peaceful demonstration, around 18:00 (local time).
At least two Azerbaijani journalists were also arrested. One works for the independent newspaper Azadliq, and was dressed with jacket with PRESS written on it and wearing a visible press accreditation.
Among those arrested are politicians from the various opposition parties and their youth organizations, youth activists, bloggers and activists wearing “Sing for Democracy” t-shirts. “Sing for Democracy” is a campaign that uses Eurovision to promote human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan.
Just seconds after a handful of protesters started shouting “freedom in Azerbaijan” and took out posters with text such as “Where is my vote,” civilian police began to arrest them. “Police was well organized and pulled people into the waiting cars and minibuses,” says Amund Trellevik, Information and Communication Officer at the Human Rights House Foundation, which was present and observed the demonstration.
Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) has been working in Azerbaijan since 2004. With local partners, it established the Azerbaijan Human Rights House in 2007. All activities of the Azerbaijan Human Rights House have been ceased in March 2011, following an order of the Ministry of Justice.
A blogger, who reported directly from the demonstration and the arrests, was deprived of his camera and arrested.
“Today’s attack on the attempt to demonstrate peacefully for human rights, democracy, freedom and reforms in Azerbaijan, joins unfortunately in a series of similar attacks against civil society in recent years. Not even large international presence in Eurovison prevents the police to violently break up demonstrations before they actually started,” says Ane Tusvik Bonde, HRHF Regional Manager for Eastern Europe and Caucasus.
An attempt to gather Thursday 24 May in front of the premises of the TV station Iqtimai was also broken up by police. At least 70 people were then arrested and taken several miles outside the city and released.
“We believe it is the responsibility of the organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest to call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that fundamental rights of Azerbaijani citizens are not violated, also after Eurovision,” said Maria Dahle, HRHF Executive Director.
Fore more information and interviews with HRHF staff and Azerbaijani human rights defenders and journalists:
Information and Communication Officer
Mob.: +47 414 40 565
Email: amund.trellevik (a) humanrightshouse.org