Harassment of the Azerbaijani Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre

Members and partners of the Human Rights House Network (HRHN) and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders condemn the continued harassment of the Azerbaijani Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre in the aftermath of the Presidential elections of 9 October 2013.

On 28 and 30 October 2013, two of the leaders of Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) were called for questioning to the Major Crimes Investigation Department of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan. They were told that any organisation receiving large amount of grants from foreign sources is under scrutiny and hence they were brought in for questioning. Investigators were particularly interested in the election observation work done in relation to the Presidential elections.

On 31 October 2013, a search was conducted in EMDS’s office. Print materials, press releases, reports, along with programme and financial documents were confiscated, as well as two computers.

According to a spokesperson of the Office of the Prosecutor General quoted by the Azeri-Press Agency, the Office “started investigations regarding irregularities recorded.”

The 58 NGOs which signed the letter call upon the President and the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan to put an end to the investigations into the activities of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, which they consider as a harassment diminishing its independence and impeding on the right to freedom of association.

The NGOs further call upon authorities to:

  • Guarantee that a well detailed and timely written explanation for the imposition of those restrictions on EMDS is provided to the organisation, and that they are subject of an independent and impartial judicial review;
  • Safeguard that all authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at all administrative levels, comply with the State’s obligation to protect the right to freedom of association, especially in relation to an electoral process, including in the aftermath of the elections;
  • With regard to the right to freedom of association, as recommended by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) [see recommendations] and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [see recommendations], review the laws affecting the work of NGOs, including by guaranteeing the right to access domestic and international funding, reducing excessively burdensome reporting obligations, and improving and facilitating the registration procedures for NGOs, in order to create an environment conducive for NGOs to carry out their activities, including those expressing critical opinions.

The letter was signed by the following partners and members of the Human Rights House Network (HRHN) and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders:

Azerbaijan Human Rights House (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
  • Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan
  • Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
  • Legal Education Society
  • Media Rights Institute
  • Society for Humanitarian Research
  • Women’s Association for Rational Development

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House in exile, Vilnius

Human Rights House Belgrade (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
  • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUCOM
  • Policy Centre

Human Rights House Kiev (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law-Enforcement
  • Centre for Civil Liberties
  • Human Rights Information Centre
  • La Strada

Human Rights House Sarajevo (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Association Transitional Justice, Accountability and Remembrance
  • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Renesansa
  • Serb Civic Council

Human Rights House Tbilisi (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Article 42 of the Constitution
  • Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies
  • Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
  • Human Rights Centre
  • Media Centre
  • Union Sapari – Family without Violence

Human Rights House Olso (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Health and Human Rights Info
  • Human Rights House Foundation

Human Rights House Voronezh (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Charitable Foundation
  • Civic Initiatives Development Centre
  • Confederation of Free Labor
  • For Ecological and Social Justice
  • Free University
  • Golos
  • Interregional Trade Union of Literary Men
  • Lawyers for labor rights
  • Memorial
  • Ms. Olga Gnezdilova
  • Soldiers Mothers of Russia
  • Voronezh Journalist Club
  • Voronezh-Chernozemie
  • Youth Human Rights Movement

Human Rights House Yerevan (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Helsinki Association
  • Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor

Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • B.a.B.e. – Be active, Be emancipated
  • Centre for Peace Studies
  • Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past

Russian Research Centre for Human Rights (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Human Rights Network Group
  • Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia
  • 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 FoundationUnion of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia

Human Rights Network Uganda

Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, Azerbaijan

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