Concerns with deterioration of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan

34 members of the Human Rights House Network sent a letter of concern to the Azerbaijani authorities today, condemning the unfair sentence of the two bloggers on 11 November and deploring the deterioration of freedom of expression in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov
Inshaatchilar ave. 1, Baku city, Azerbaijan
Fax: (99412) 430-09-81
E-mail: contact@justice.gov.az        


The Human Rights House Network condemns the unfair sentence of the two bloggers on 11 November and deplores the deterioration of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. We call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to take adequate measures to protect the democratic values and especially the right to freedom of expression.  

Several recent events in Azerbaijan raise grave concerns about the overall situation in the country. In October, a total of five journalists were convicted for defamation, two of them received prison time. As a result, Azerbaijan now has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the OSCE region. On 29 October, the Ministry of Justice inspected the office of Institute of Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) – an act which we see as a clear manifestation of an increased pressure on human rights organisations.

The latest alarming event was the court verdict against the two young bloggers, Araz Huseynov and Emin Milli (Abdullayev), who were detained in July 2009 and sentenced to jail time on 11 November. Araz Huseynov, the Judge of the Sabail District Court in Baku handed Emin Milli (Abdullayev), 30, who runs an online video blog known as ANTV, a two and a half year jail term; Adnan Hajizade, 26, a video blogger and coordinator of the Azerbaijani youth movement Ol! was slammed with a two-year prison sentence for allegedly harming two men in a restaurant.  

On 8 July 2009 Emin Milli (Abdullayev) and Adnan Hajizade were attacked in a restaurant while discussing the activity of youth organizations related to the internet. As a result, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli sustained several injuries. Victims Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade appealed to the police immediately. Although they appealed to the police as victims, police detained Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade under article 221.2.1 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code. According to national human rights organizations, the judge had ignored witness testimony by restaurant guest who said they saw the two men attack the bloggers and not vice versa. Milli and Hajizade had been openly critical towards the government in blog postings in the weeks preceding the attack.

Since the bloggers’ detention, the international community has been very concerned and raised the issue at the very highest level with the Government officials, urging them to consider the case fairly. In spite of all efforts, the bloggers were sentenced to imprisonment.  

The Human Rights House Network believes that the sentence is an attempt to silence the young activists. We condemn the unfair verdict and call upon the Government of Azerbaijan to re-open the investigation of the case and ensure a fair trial that complies with all international standards. 

In addition, the Human Rights House Network reminds the Azerbaijani authorities that freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of any democratic society, guaranteed by a number of international treaties (Article 19 of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights; Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights) to which Azerbaijan is a party. Therefore, we urge the local authorities to abide by the national and international obligations to promote and protect the right to freedom of expression.

 

Sincerely, 

Human Rights House Oslo (on behalf of the following NGOs):
–          Human Rights House Foundation
–          Norwegian Helsinki Foundation
–          Norwegian Tibet Committee 

The Rafto Foundation (Norway) 

Human Rights House London (on behalf of the following NGOs):
–          Index on Censorship
–          Article 19
–          English PEN 

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland) 

Human Rights House Baku 

Armenian Helsinki Association 

Human Rights Centre (Georgia) 

Russian Research Centre for Human Rights (on behalf of the following NGOs):
–    Human Rights Network Group
–    Independent Psychiatric Association of the Russian Federation
–    Moscow Centre for Prison Reform
–    Moscow Helsinki Group
–    Mother’s Right Foundation
–    Non-violence International
–    Right of the Child
–    Right to Live and have Civil Dignity
–    Social Partnership Foundation
–    Union of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia 

Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius 

Human Rights House Sarajevo (on behalf of the following NGOs):
–   Association of Female Citizens "Renaissance"
–   Foundation CURE
–   Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
–   Regional Co-ordinator for Youth Groups
–   Serb Civic Council – Movement for Equality – The Council of the Sarajevo Canton
–   Woman and Society Centre 

Human Rights House Skopje (on behalf of the following NGOs):
– Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI)
– The First Children’s Embassy in the World – "Megjashi"
– Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
– Macedonian Women’s Rights Centre (MWRC) – Shelter Centre
– Polio Plus – Movement Against Disability

HURINET-Uganda 

Copies have been sent to:  

•           The Human Rights House Network
•           South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders
•           The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
•           The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Norwegian Parliament
•           The Norwegian Embassy in Baku
•           The OSCE/ODIHR, Warsaw
•           UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
•           UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
•           Press Division of the Council of Europe

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