As the Azerbaijan freedom of expression community mourns the loss of Rafiq, 9 member organizations of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) calls for an end to the cycle of impunity in the country and for an independent, impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.
The Azerbaijani authorities have a poor record of investigating attacks against journalists, contributing significantly to the climate of fear and impunity, which has come to dominate the media landscape over recent years. In addition, The Azerbaijani government was unable to protect Rafiq, despite him reporting the death threats.
Rafiq did not shy away from controversial subjects. He served a prison sentence following his conviction in May 2007 on charges of inciting religious hatred, based on an article he had written arguing that Islamic values were preventing Azerbaijan’s integration into European structures and stunting its democratic progress. A leading Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, placed a fatwa on him in 2007.
In addition to the fatwa, Rafiq received death threats during his defamation trial in 2007. The Azerbaijani authorities never publicly condemned the fatwa or the public death threats he received during his trial in 2007. Even today his death has only had minimal coverage on state governed TV and the authorities have yet to publicly condemn his murder.
Those responsible for his murder must be brought to justice and the impunity so endemic in the country must stop. The Azerbaijani government should show its genuine commitment to human rights and comply with its obligations under international law, in particular the right to life and the right freedom of expression.
Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
Media Diversity Institute
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Reporters Without Borders