Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan remains an authoritarian state, where civil and political rights are severely curtailed and regularly violated. Political power is completely concentrated in the hands of the president Ilham Aliev, his family and the ruling party directly affiliated with him. Grave human rights violations include a corrupted justice system, frequent cases of arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, ill-treatment in prisons, obstruction of civil society organisations work, discrimination against LGBT people, ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities.

Read about the current human rights situation in our country report Human rights in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan: New Series of Brutal Attacks on Freedom of Expression

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Civil Rights Defenders condemns a new series of attacks on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. We are now witnessing even more ruthless methods of repressions such as abduction, forced return, and torture of regime critics. In January a prominent blogger was arbitrarily detained in Baku. In two other incidents in May, the authorities imprisoned the head of an independent TV channel and a freelance reporter. Aside of the direct attacks on reporters, the government has escalated hacking campaign against dissent.

Exiled Journalist Abducted – Open Letter to the Georgian Prime Minister

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On 29 May, the exiled Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi, Georgia. He went missing after leaving his colleagues in the evening, before resurfacing the following day in Baku in the custody of Azerbaijan’s state border agency. Mukhtarli reports that he was forced into a car near his home, tied up and beaten. His abductors put a bag over his head and 10,000 euros were stuffed into his pockets while crossing the Azerbaijani border.

Stop the Ongoing Harassment of Activists’ Family in Azerbaijan

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Civil Rights Defenders is concerned by the persistent harassment of the family of Azerbaijani human rights defender Bashir Suleymanli, Director of the Institute for Citizen Rights and Co-Founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Center. We call upon the Government of Azerbaijan to immediately cease this intimidation, respect its citizenry’s rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and combat the growing impunity of local security services outside of the country’s capital Baku.

Journalist Mehman Huseynov Sentenced to Two Years on Fabricated Charges

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Civil Rights Defenders calls upon the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Mehman Huseynov, a prominent blogger and Chairperson of the press freedom organization, the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety, who was sentenced to two years imprisonment on spurious charges of defamation. The lawsuit was brought by the chief of police in Baku’s Nasimi District after Huseynov publicly spoke out about his torture by district officers in January 2017. Huseynov was immediately taken into custody directly from the courtroom.

No Progress on Key Reforms: Transparency Group Should Suspend Azerbaijan’s Membership

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Civil Rights Defenders and a coalition of 20 leading civil society organisations calls on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a prominent international coalition, to suspend Azerbaijan’s membership for failing to carry out key reforms. The EITI Board meeting is due to take place in Bogota on the 08 and 09 of March in order to review the country’s efforts to reduce oppression against civil society groups.

Show Trial Ends with Harsh Sentences for Islamic Activists

The trial of conservative Sh’ia religious activists involved in what is known as the 'Nardaran Affair' has reached its long-expected conclusion, with all 17 defendants sentenced to up to 20-year prison terms. (Photo courtesy of Vladic Ravich)

The trial of conservative Sh’ia religious activists involved in what is known as the ‘Nardaran Affair’ has reached its long-expected conclusion, with all 17 defendants sentenced to up to 20-year prison terms. All the defendants – 16 members of Muslim Unity, a moderate Islamist group, along with a lone secular opposition politician – were found guilty on a litany of charges ranging from arms trafficking to plotting to overthrow the government.

Justice Demanded for Journalist Tortured in Prison in Azerbaijan

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Civil Rights Defenders together with 18 International Human Rights Organisations have strongly condemned the abduction and torture of journalist Mehman Huseynov and immediately calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to comprehensively investigate the case and to take action against those responsible. He is one of Azerbaijan’s top political bloggers and Chairman of the local press freedom group, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS).

Statement: Stop Crackdown on Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan

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Civil Rights Defenders and several of its partners from the Sport for Rights coalition call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to reverse the alarming trend as it carries out a multi-pronged attack on freedom of expression: including introducing harsh penalties for critical speech online, imprisoning young activists for nothing more than graffiti, blocking access to websites of independent […]

It is Time for the Council of Europe to Take Off its Blinkers Over Azerbaijan

Khadiya Ismayilova one of the numerous journalists and human rights defenders who were arrested on pre-fabricated charges by the Aliyev regime. Khadiya was released from prison due to international pressure in May 2016. Photo by Johangir Yusif

The Council of Europe is supposed to be a club of democratic countries, but Azerbaijani officials have expressed little interest in seeing their country become one. This used to upset at least some at the Council of Europe – a decade ago, the council discussed suspending Azerbaijan’s voting rights – but its members appear to have decided to just pretend Azerbaijan is a democracy and hope for the best.

Azerbaijan: Renewed Human Rights Crackdown Ahead of Referendum

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Less than six weeks ahead of a constitutional referendum, the Azerbaijani authorities have unleashed a new wave of repression to silence critical voices. Today, Civil Rights Defenders joins 17 member organisations of the Sports for Rights coalition in a statement to condemn this renewed crackdown. We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to take immediate steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, starting with the release of political prisoners held for their peaceful political activities or exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2016 – Intigam Aliyev

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Civil Rights Defenders is pleased to announce human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev as the Civil Rights Defender of the Year 2016. Recently released from prison, he is one of several human rights defenders in Azerbaijan who has been detained for their work to promote human rights. “This support is highly valuable because it shows our realities to the world and gives hope about the future of democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan,” says Intigam Aliyev.

Human Rights in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country, where civil and political rights are severely restricted and violated. Political power is concentrated in the hands of the President, Ilham Aliyev, and the ruling party directly affiliated to him. The flawed presidential elections held in 2013 saw Aliyev appointed for a third term. Most notable human rights abuses in Azerbaijan revolve around violations of freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Remembering the Plight of Human Rights Defenders in Prison

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On the eve of the arrest of investigative Journalist Khadiya Ismayilova Civil Rights Defenders and other members of the Sports for Rights coalition together with the Civic Society Platform call for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of all human rights defenders. Ismayilova is one of dozens of human rights defenders and political prisoners who have been incarcerated by the regime on politically motivated charges.

Azerbaijan Parliamentary Elections : Report Examines Two Years of Repression in Azerbaijan

While Rasul has been released Khadiya Ismayilova and Intigam Aliyev still remain behind bars

With just two days remaining until Azerbaijan’s parliamentary elections, the Sport for Rights campaign of which Civil Rights Defenders is a member, has launched a new report examining the unprecedented human rights crackdown taking place in the country. Since the inauguaral 2015 European Games held in Baku the authorities have clamped down on civil society organisations and human roghts defenders with an iron fist silencing all remaining critical voices in the country.

Azerbaijan: Dismay as Investigative Journalist Khadiya Ismayilova is Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison

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Civil Rights Defenders condemns the politically motivated sentencing of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadiya Ismayilova to 7.5 years in prison. Today, the 01st September Khadiya was convicted by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office. She was acquitted on an earlier charge of inciting someone to commit suicide.

Alarming Deterioration in the Human Rights Landscape in Azerbaijan

While Rasul has been released Khadiya Ismayilova and Intigam Aliyev still remain behind bars

The human rights situation continues to deteriorate in Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the European Games. On August 08th, the journalist Rasim Aliyev was brutally attacked and severely beaten by a group of people. He subsequently died on August 09th in a Baku hospital while human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were handed down lengthy prison sentences yesterday on politically motivated charges.

Meydan TV Director Emin Milli Threatened for Critical Reporting on European Games

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Civil Rights Defenders together with several other civil society organisations who are members of “Sport for Rights” has issued a statement calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to put an end to their ongoing attempts to silence critical reporting. The statement follows after Meydan TV Director Emin Milli reported that he had received a threat from the Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov, in connection with his critical reporting on the European Games.

Azerbaijan : The Repressive Side of the European Olympic Games.

While Rasul has been released Khadiya Ismayilova and Intigam Aliyev still remain behind bars

Azerbaijan’s human rights record will once again be in the spotlight on the 16th June 2015 when Civil Rights Defenders will co-sponsor an event at the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Entitled Azerbaijan: The Repressive Side of the European Olympic Games and organised by Human Rights House Network, International Media Support and People in Need, the event will shine a light on the severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms and the imprisonment of civil society.

Authorities Must Drop Charges Against Prominent Journalist in Azerbaijan

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In August 2014, Emin Huseynov, Director of the Azerbaijani Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety (IRFS), was forced into hiding in order to protect himself from Government repression. At the time Emin Huseynov was accused of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of power, charges that Civil Rights Defenders and other international human rights organisations consider politically motivated.

Organisations call on international solidarity with the newspaper Azadliq

On 17 October, just a week after the presidential election, the sale of several daily newspapers including the newspaper Azadliq was banned in metro stations in Baku. Azadliq is one of few remaining opposition news outlets in Azerbaijan. “We urge the country’s judicial and political authorities to stop hounding it and we call on international solidarity with the daily”, said Civil Rights Defenders and several other organisations in a joint statement.

Election will not be credible unless people can criticise the government

Photo: Aziz Elkhanoglu, Art for Democracy

In a joint call issued on the eve of the Presidential election, 22 human rights organisations and press freedom campaigners warn that the failure of the government of Azerbaijan to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government. Azerbaijan should take immediate action to ensure fundamental rights are protected ahead of the election.

Harassment of investigative journalist must be effectively investigated

Khadija Ismayilova (humanrightshouse.org)

In a letter to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and the Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov, several human rights organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders, express their profound concern regarding the harassment and intimidation of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. The organisations urge the president to ensure an effective investigation into the threats against her.

No sweet songs for human rights defenders

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A year ago Swedish TV viewers’ attention was directed towards Azerbaijan; and wile the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Baku, the regime’s human rights violations continued in the backyard. Today, the lights have gone out but the repression of civil society has reached new lows. On 14 May, Civil Rights Defenders will release a report on the situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Listen to Vugar Goyajev’s presentation of the findings of the report.