Amnesty report highlights Azerbaijani rights violations

Amnesty report highlights Azerbaijani rights violations

İpek Yezdani ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Amnesty report highlights Azerbaijani rights violations

An activist is seen while being detained by Baku police. Amnesty’s new report details abuses at political protests in Azerbaijan.

Amnesty International has raised the issue of harassment, intimidation and arrests of political activists, journalists and NGO workers in Azerbaijan and has called on the international community not to turn a blind eye to human rights violations in Azerbaijan.

Amnesty International today released a new report on human rights violations and imprisoned political activists in Azerbaijan titled “The Spring That Never Blossomed.”

The report detailed a wave of intimidation and arrests around protests against corruption and the increasing suppression of independent media, NGOs and opposition parties in Azerbaijan.

“Following the protests and uprisings in the Middle East in March, hundreds of people gathered on the streets for democratic reforms and respect for human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia deputy program director of Amnesty International. “However, the protests were banned and violently dispersed, organizers identified and imprisoned. We would like to see all prisoners of freedom of conscious to be released.”

Youth activists and opposition figures have been jailed since then on arbitrary or trumped up charges while journalists and human rights defenders have been threatened and harassed, Dalhuisen said, and the 17 people convicted around the time of the protests should especially be released immediately.

Dalhuisen said the international community tended to turn a blind eye to human right violations in Azerbaijan, because they mostly cared about having a stable environment for oil and gas production in the country.

“The European Union and other international partners of Azerbaijan must take every opportunity to press for the release of the prisoners of conscience and to put an end to the suppression of peaceful protest, critical opinion and political opposition,” Dalhuisen said.

“The clampdown has sent out a clear and calculated message: Public expression of dissent will not be tolerated, nor will any attempt to galvanize public opinion against the current regime,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s Azerbaijan researcher.

The Amnesty International report said criminal and civil defamation charges continued to be used to silence critical media, while foreign media outlets were banned from national airwaves in 2009.

“The government is also currently considering laws that could potentially restrict web users’ access to information and criminalizing ‘misinformation,’ further restricting online freedom of expression,” the report said.

“In oil-rich Azerbaijan, 20 years of independence, economic prosperity and relative stability have failed to translate into greater fundamental freedoms for its citizens while the consolidation of authoritarian rule over the last decade has been largely ignored by the outside world,” Nozadze said.