European Parliament: Persecution of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan must stop

Whilst holding the chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the authorities of Azerbaijan are leading an unprecedented crackdown against civil society by arresting, one after the other, key critics of the country’s leadership, including well-known human rights defenders in the last few weeks. The European Parliament strongly addressed the situation in its resolution of today.

As stated on Human Rights Day last December by the Head of the Women’s Association for Rational Development Shahla Ismayil, also attorney of the Human Rights House Azerbaijan, “the European Union should not sacrifice human rights to energy interests.” In its resolution adopted on 18 September 2014, the European Parliament made this clear: “The European Union support for and cooperation with the Republic of Azerbaijan, including the ongoing negotiations for a Strategic Modernisation Partnership, must be conditional on and include clauses relating to the protection and promotion of human rights, especially with regard to freedom of the media, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.”

The European Parliament adopted its resolution of 18 September 2014 as a reaction to the persecution of human rights defenders, underlining the worrying situation of many internationally recognised ones, including Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli, as well as activists of the non-governmental youth movement NIDA including Ömar Mammadov, and social media activists Abdul Abilov and Elsever Murselli. The Parliament also mentioned “many more journalists, human rights defenders and activists are facing legal charges brought against them in Azerbaijan, including Hasan Huseynli, head of the Intelligent Citizen Enlightenment Centre Public Union, sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment on 14 July 2014, and Rauf Mirkadirov, an investigative journalist with the leading Russian-language newspaper Zerkalo, held on pre-trial detention on charges of treason” further underlining the situation of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), a leading media rights NGO in the country headed by the well-known and internationally recognised human rights defender Emin Huseynov, which had its offices raided by the police on 8 August 2014.

The Parliament condemns those arrests in the resolution and calls on the Azerbaijani government “to take concrete steps to improve the human rights situation in the country as a matter of urgent priority, including immediately and unconditionally releasing all political prisoners and ceasing politically motivated arrests”, whilst regretting that “the EU-Azerbaijan human rights dialogue has made no substantial progress as regards the human rights situation in the country.”

“Rightfully so, the European Parliament is calling upon the European Union as such to take the situation in Azerbaijan more seriously – the Union’s top political leadership and representatives in Baku have to publicly endorse the work of human rights defenders and defend it, and react to the imprisonment of many human rights defenders, activists and journalists over the last few months” says the Head of Advocacy of the Human Rights House Foundation Florian Irminger. 

Nominees for Sakharov Prize 2014 announced

Seven nominees for the European Parliament’s 2014 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, chosen by political groups and groups of MEPs, will be presented at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Development committees and the Human Rights Subcommittee on 23 September.

The nominees (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Mahmoud Al ‘Asali (post mortem) and Louis Raphael Sako, nominated by the ECR group, Anna Záborská and 66 other MEPs;
  • Mouad Belghouate, Ala Yaacoubi and Alaa Abdel Fattahnominated by the GUE/NGL group;
  • CHREDO, Open Doors, Oeuvre d’Orient and Aid to the Church in Need, nominated by Philippe Juvin and 60 other MEPs;
  • EuroMaidan, represented by Mustafa Nayem, Ruslana Lyzhychko, Yelyzaveta Schepetylnykova and Tetiana Chornovo, nominated by Jacek Saryusz-Wolski and 52 other MEPs;
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, nominated by the EFDD group;
  • Denis Mukwege, nominated by the S&D and ALDE groups and Barbara Lochbihler;
  • Leyla Yunus, nominated by The Greens/EFA group and Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Marietje Schaake and Ramon Tremosa.

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