Continued repression in Azerbaijan: International reaction needed

Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly ignored international and European warnings and recommendations to improve the human rights situation in the country. It is time for States to act when they attend the UN Human Rights Council next week.

This call is detailed in a joint NGO briefing note on Azerbaijan, prepared ahead of the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session.

As shown in the timeline below, Azerbaijani civil society has faced continued pressure, enduring waves of attacks and arrests against human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, young activists, and anyone critical of the government. In 2016, ahead of the referendum on expanding presidential powers civil society reported a renewed crackdown, with new arrests and violations. 

Timeline of crackdown in Azerbaijan (an enlarged version of this graphic is available in full briefing note on Azerbaijan)

Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy at HRHF, commented: “In 2011, the Human Rights House was ordered to cease its activities. Since, the government decided to use all possible tools to attempt to silence human rights defenders and shut down independent civil society. To prevent further repression and potential violence, the international community must react and stand firm for human rights. The Human Rights Council gives such an opportunity now in March, as the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders presents his report on Azerbaijan.”

Following his official visit to Azerbaijan in September 2016, Michel Forst immediately assessed that civil society has been “paralysed” by the government. He called upon Azerbaijan to “rethink [its] punitive approach to civil society.”

In the first week of the Human Rights Council session in March, the UN Special Rapoorteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, will present the findings of his visit to Azerbaijan. He concludes “over the last several years, civil society in Azerbaijan has faced the worst situation since the country became independent.”

He further asserts that authorities specifically target human rights defenders, who “have been accused by public officials of being the fifth column [or] being foreign agents… Defenders are attacked, threatened, brought to court and sentenced under political or fabricated charges. They face smear campaigns in an attempt to discredit their work by relegating them to a political opposition, or indeed branded as traitors.”

In his report to the Human Rights Council, Michel Forst further outlines that many international bodies have expressed worries about the continued crackdown in Azerbaijan, and that the Azerbaijan government has consciously disregarded these alerts, violating its obligations under international and European human rights law. Instead of implementing recommendations of international independent human rights mechanisms, Michel Forst reports that the authorities build up a political system “increasingly authoritarian, with a high degree of power concentrated in the Presidential Administration.”


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  • Azerbaijan briefing note for UN Human Rights Council, March 2017

    In this briefing note, Azerbaijani and international partner organisations and HRHF outline Azerbaijan’s targeted and systematic repression of human rights defenders and civil society, and crackdown on independent media and dissenting voices. They call for greater international attention and subsequent action on Azerbaijan.
  • Azerbaijan side event at the Human Rights Council, March 2017

    On 7 March, HRHF will host a side event at the Human Rights Council. Speakers include: UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst; UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai; Azerbajani human rights defender Emin Huseynov; Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

    HRHF at Human Rights Council 34

    Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy at HRHF discusses priorities at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council


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