NGOs call for the end of systematic punishment of leaders of civil society in Azerbaijan

In a joint statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, leading international human rights organisations call upon Azerbaijan “to put an end to the systematic punishment of leaders of civil society, and to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, journalists and activists held in custody.”

In their joint statement at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council,  Civicus, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, International Service for Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and HRHF, focused on the unprecedented crackdown against civil society in Azerbaijan.

“As a result, unrelenting crackdown on human rights, key leaders of human rights organisations are behind bars, as well as leading journalists and other peaceful activists, including many activists of the youth movement NIDA,” the NGOs said. 

Among those detained are several of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders and journalists, including Leyla Yunus and her husband, Arif Yunus, as well as Rasul Jafarov, the human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev. The NGOs said they are “particularly worried by the health situation of Leyla Yunus and Intigam Aliyev who require immediate medical support.”

The crackdown is not limited to NGO leaders but also aims at targeting independent media in the country.

On 8 August 2014, police raided the offices of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), lead by Emin Huseynov who is facing similar charges as the previously mentioned human rights defenders. The Institute is now effectively closed.

On 27 December 2014, police raided the Baku office of Radio Free Europe/Radio LibertyThe RFE Office in Baku is since closed.

At least 12 journalists remain in prison in Azerbaijan, amongst them Seymour Hazi and the investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

Watch the intervention here (58th speaker).

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