We, the undersigned members of Human Rights House Tbilisi call upon Georgian authorities to take all necessary steps to promptly and efficiently investigate the case of alleged abduction and focrible return to Azerbaijan of Azerbaijani journalist, Afgan Mukhtarli.
We also urge the Government of Georgia to fully respect human rights guaratneed under international conventions and national legislation and to ensure the security and safety of human rights defenders, activists, journalists or bloggers fleeing from Azerbaijan and residing in Georgia.
An Azerbaijani investigative journalist and activist, Afgan Mukhtarli, was kidnapped in Tbilisi, Georgia on May 29, 2017 around 19:00 and then illegally brought across the border to Azerbaijan. Later, he appeared at Azerbaijani border policy custody.
After the closed trial hearing on May 31, the Sabali district court of Baku ordered three-month pre-trial detention. He was charged with illegal crossing of the border, smuggling and violently resisting a law enforcement official. According to Afgan’s lawyer in Azerbaijan, money was put in his pocket by his abductors and they ill-treated him. Afgan had no passport or ID documentation with him.
Afgan Mukhtarli was living in Georgia since 2015 together with his wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, and daughter, after they fled Azerbaijan, due to the ongoing crackdown on critical voices in Azerbaijan since 2014. He continued his activities as a freelance jounralist in Georgia. Afgan and his family were supported by Human Rights House Tbilisi since their arrival in Georgia. Currenlty, HRHT is providing legal support on the case in Georgia.
Furthermore, Human Rights House Tbilisi is aware of recent situation of Azerbaijani activists living in Georgia, who complain about surveillance and threats they are facing here: policial activist Dashqin Aghalarli, supported by HRHT member organisation, Human Rights Center, is currently at risk of extradition to Azerbaijan where itis alleged he will face serious risk of inhuman treatment; At the end of April 2017 journalist of Azerbaijani opposition media Meydan TV exiled in Berlin, Jamal Ali, was refused entry to Georgia: he was detained and sent back to Berlin without providing specific reason; Several journalists’ applications for residence permits were rejected at the end of last year.
HRHT and its member organisations are deeply concerned for Mukhtarli’s safety. Azerbaijan’s authorities must release Afgan and ensure that he fully enjoys his human rights, including the protection from torture and ill-treatment.
We are also concerned about continued incidents of similar cases of surveillance and threats to Azerbaijani activists and journalists in Georgia that HRHT and its member organisations are supporting, while maintaining their privacy and confidentiality, as the persons concerned do not want to disclose their information.
The failure of the Georgian Government to protect the rights of Azerbaijani citizens residing in Georgia will seriously undermine its commintment towards rule of law and human rights protection and violate its international obligations. Therefore, we urge the Georgian Government to ensure the safety and security of Azerbaijani journalists, activists, bloggers and human rights defenders living in exile in Georgia.
Human RIghts House Tbilisi (on behalf of the following member-organizations):
- Article 42 of the Constitution
- Human Rights Center (HRIDC)
- Media Institute
- Georgian Center for Psychological and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)
- Caucasian Center for Human Rights and Conflict Studies (CCHRCS)