Updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

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Click to view the full list.

A new list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has just been published. The list now comprises of 80 names, as compared to the 98 which were included in the list published in August last year. In April 2015, the report was updated; the names of the released political prisoners were removed from the list, as well as those new prisoners, who were arrested after the list of 98 political prisoners was prepared, were included in the report.

This report contains a list of cases of those currently detained or imprisoned on politically motivated charges. The list has been drawn up according to the criteria set out in PACE Resolution No. 1900, from 3 October 2012.

To compile this report, a series of consultations were conducted with local human rights defenders who: 1) studied relevant reports of local and international human rights organizations; 2) examined documents from influential international organizations that Azerbaijan is member of, and has commitments to – in particular, the Council of Europe; 3) monitored the press; 4) monitored court cases; 5) examined court verdicts and other legal documents; 5) and interviewed the families, lawyers, and defense committees of the political prisoners included in this report.

The report provides detailed information about each of the political prisoners, including the facts and circumstances of their arrests, political motivations, and photos. (Photos were not available for every prisoner.)

Cases included in the report are divided into seven categories:

  1. Journalists and bloggers
  2. Human rights defenders
  3. Youth activists
  4. Politicians
  5. Religious activists
  6. Life term prisoners
  7. Other cases

The last three categories are divided into subcategories, which are detailed in the report.

Via Norwegian Helsinki Committe

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Repression continues in Azerbaijan ahead of European Games

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Ruslan Nesirli, Sadif Gurbanov and Turkel Alisoy, members of the Popular Front Party were arrested shortly after the National Council – the coalition of opposition parties – organized protest on April 5.

On April 6, the chair of the party’s Sabail district branch, Sadif Gurbanov was sentenced to 25 days by the court order. The same day, police arrested another member of the party, Turkel Alisoy. Alisoy was sentenced to 30 days. On April 7, the party’s youth branch member Ruslan Nesirli was also arrested and sentenced to 20 days.

Turkel Alisoy is accused of hooliganism while the other two, Nesirli and Gurbanov for resisting police.

Vice President of the Popular Front Party Gozel Bayramli believes these arrests are the result of their political activities.

In an interview with Azadliq Radiosu, Turkel Alisoy’s brother Eltac said his brother and the rest of the members are arrested because of their activity on the social media platforms like Facebook.

Reported by AzadliqRadiosu

2014: Year of intense government repression in Azerbaijan

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Current political prisoner Khadija Ismayilova stops the car which takes rights defender Intigam Aliyev from court to the detention facility on 8 August. (Photo: Musavat.com)

After 12 months of paralysing attacks on civil society, many prominent critics of Azerbaijani government to enter New Year in prison. See what happened this year in Azerbaijan:

13 January – Advisor of opposite Musavat Party chairman Yadigar Sadigov sentenced to 6-year imprisonment

3 February – President Ilham Aliyev approved amendments to the laws “On the non-governmental organizations (public associations and foundations)” and “On Grants” that made activity of independent NGOs impossible.

17 March – Chairman of Republican Alternative movement Ilgar Mammadov sentenced to 7-year imprisonment and advisor of chairman of opposite Musavat Party member Tofig Yagublu to 5-year imprisonment.

10 April – The Azerbaijani government has refused to renew a major Peace Corps’ program focusing on youth development sector in the country

21 April – Journalist Rauf Mirkadirov deported, arrested and charged with high treason.

6 May – 8 pro-democracy members of NIDA Civic Movement sentenced 6-8 years in jail for exercising their right of freedom of assembly:

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15 May – Journalist Parviz Hashimli was sentenced to eight years in prison.

26 May –  2014 the Court on Grave Crimes has sentenced the two Azerbaijan human rights defenders Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli to respectively 5 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years and 6 months.

27 May – Activist Abdul Abilov sentenced 5 years and 6 months in jail for managing critical Facebook page.

30 May – Independent “Ayna”, “Zerkalo” newspapers suspended publication.

2 July – Baku office of National Democratic Institute(NDI) was offically closed.

4 July – 18 years old activist Omar Mammadov was sentenced 5 years in jail for managing critical Facebook page.

17-25 July – Opposite Musavat Party members Siraj and Faraj Karimli brothers arrested.

30 July-5 August – Leading rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were arrested. Office of “Peace and Democracy Institute” sealed off.

2 August – Prominent rights activist Rasul Jafarov was arrested.

8 August – Respected human rights defender Intigam Aliyev was arrested. Office of “Legal Education Society” sealed off.

8 August – Well known journalist Emin Huseynov was forced to hide till now. Office of “Reporters’ Freedom and Safety” sealed off.

21 August – Independent Azerbaijani journalist, Ilgar Nasibov, and his family continue receiving threats after he was brutally attacked by unidentified people.

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29 August – Opposition journalist Seymur Hazi was arrested.

8 October –  IREX ceased its operations in Azerbaijan.

5 December – Well-known investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was arrested for investigating ruling family’s illegal properties and bussiness in offshore zones.

9 December – Independent online channel Meydan TV suspended its activity in Baku.

26 December – RFE/RL Baku Bureau (AzadliqRadiosu) raided, materials seized, office sealed off, some employees forcibly taken to Prosecutor’s office.

Updated: International reactions to Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest

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09.12.2014

UK Minister of State for Europe, David Lidington, blogs on freedom of expression and the media overseas, emphasizes arrest of Khadija Ismayilova:
“Last month I travelled to Azerbaijan, where freedom of expression and the media continues to be threatened. Only last Friday another journalist was arrested and sentenced to pre-trial detention. Khadija Ismailova’s case continues a spell of systematic targeting of journalists often ending in prison sentences being handed out to free speech advocates. But Azerbaijan is far from alone in eroding the freedom of independent media. In fact, apart from the Baltic States, no post-Soviet country is considered by Freedom House’s 2014 annual report to have a free media, and only North Korea fares worse than Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.”
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden urged Azerbaijani government to meet OSCE and CoE commitments on her Twitter page:

Protest rally for arrested journalist Khadija Ismaylova in Tbilisi on December 10: (video by OCCRP Caucasus’ Nino Bakhradze)
Solidarity action in front of Azerbaijani Embassy in Bucharest on December 10, slogan was “Free Khadija”:

 

Statement by the EU  External Action Spokesperson on the arrest of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova:

“The arrest of investigative journalist Ms Khadija Ismayilova by the Azerbaijan authorities last Friday, and her commitment to pre-trial detention on a charge of ‘incitement to suicide’, is a step against the freedom of expression, key to any democratic society.

Azerbaijan needs to stand fully by its international commitments, as a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, to ensure the freedom of the press. The EU will closely follow developments in Ms Ismayilova’s case.”

Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, an independent, non-judicial institution of the Council of Europe strongly condemns Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest and detention:

“The arrest of Khadija Ismayilova, prominent journalist in Azerbaijan and long-standing partner of my Office, confirms my concerns about the reprisals that human rights defenders and other activists who co-operate with the Council of Europe face in the country.

I strongly condemn her arrest and detention and see it as yet another instance of the selective use of criminal provisions against those expressing critical views in the country.

I last met Khadija in October when I was in Baku and could observe her determination and positive input in defending the rights of those recently detained and many other activists under pressure. Just a few hours before her arrest she had contacted my Office to raise the case of a fellow journalist.

It is high time that the Azerbaijani authorities put an end to this crackdown on human rights and free all those put behind bars because of the opinions they have expressed.” Nils Muiznieks wrote on his Facebook page.

Secretary General Jagland calls for immediate release of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova:

“I am concerned that a Baku court ordered the two-month pre-trial detention of prominent Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Her arrest was unnecessary. It sends a very negative message to the civil society in Azerbaijan and to the international community. It once again puts pressure on journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and fundamentally contradicts the commitments Azerbaijan undertook when it became a member state of the Council of Europe. I call for the immediate release of Khadija Ismayilova and of the many other Azerbaijani partners of the Council of Europe currently deprived of their liberty,” said Thorbjorn Jagland.

Colleagues, friends protested for imprisoned journalist Khadija Ismayil in front of Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington, DC on December 8, 2014

 

U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Deeply Concerned By Arrest And Detention Of Journalist Khadija Ismayilova:

“I am deeply concerned about the detention of Ms. Ismayilova, who has been the target of unrelenting persecution by the government of Azerbaijan because of her efforts to expose corruption within the country, as well as her advocacy on behalf of political prisoners. The current charges against her are bizarre and only seem designed to silence one of the few independent voices left in Azerbaijan.

Ms. Ismayilova was scheduled to testify in front of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on November 19, 2014, but was prevented from attending due to a government-imposed travel ban related to a different legal case. The current charge levied against Ms. Ismayilova of ‘incitement to suicide’ is just an escalation of the years of harassment by the authorities that she has endured.

As a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Azerbaijan has committed to respecting human rights – including freedom of the media – and the U.S. Helsinki Commission once again calls on the government of Azerbaijan to live up to its promises and immediately end its harassment of all journalists, including Ms. Ismayilova.” said Senator Ben Cardin.

Solidarity action in front of Azerbaijani Embassy in Moldova for release of Khadija Ismayilova:

 

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today has called on the Azerbaijan authorities to immediately release the prominent investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova, following the order of a two-month preventative detention.

“This is an absurd charge against Ismayilova by the authorities to silence critical voices in Azerbaijan. It is clearly an another attempt by the government to intimidate journalists like Ismayilova who dare to report the truth and spoke out against the authorities in the country.” said Ricardo Gutiérrez, the EFJ General Secretary.

Investigative Report Preject Italy calls for immediate release of Azeri reporter:

“The decision to hold Khadija in detention was instantly met with outcry from journalists, media organizations, and press freedom activists around the world. Her supporters have been urging people to write to their local Azeri embassy, and to the Azeri prosecutor and government to demand Khadija’s release, and condemn the continued harassment she has suffered in the course of her important investiagtive work. We’d encourage you to do the same.”

Nenad Pejic, the editor in chief of RFE/RL, condemned Ismayilova’s treatment.

“The arrest and detention of Khadija Ismayilova is the latest attempt in a two-year campaign to silence a journalist who has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan,” Pejic said. “The charges brought against her today are outrageous. Khadija is being punished for her journalism.”

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović condemned the arrest of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismailova.

“The arrest of Ismailova is nothing but orchestrated intimidation, which is a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice. I repeat my call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to stop this practice, which is detrimental to media freedom,” Mijatović said.

PACE President Anne Brasseur expressed her serious concern abut arrest of investigative journalist.

“Khadija Ismayilova is one the long-standing partners of the Council of Europe. I met her in my office in Strasbourg during the Assembly’s last part session and I was shocked by the information she provided to me regarding pressure and intimidation exercised against her, as well as other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Taking into account the recent arrests of prominent human rights defenders – many of whom are valuable partners of the Council of Europe – I have to express my deep concern at her arrest.

As a member state of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan must respect the standards of the ECHR. Therefore, I urge the competent authorities of Azerbaijan to ensure that the standards of the Convention are respected in any judicial and legal proceedings against Ms Ismayilova as well as against other human rights activists”, declared PACE President.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors condemned the arrest and detention in Baku of prominent Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and called for her speedy release.

“Khadija’s arrest is just another attempt by the Azeri government to silence its critics and restrict press freedom in Azerbaijan,” said Chairman Jeff Shell. “We are outraged at her treatment, and we call on the government of Azerbaijan to release her immediately.”

In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said that Ms. Ismayilova’s arrest appeared to be part of a broader crackdown.

“Broadly speaking, we are deeply troubled by restrictions on civil society activities, including on journalists in Azerbaijan, and are increasingly concerned that the government there is not living up to its international commitments and obligations,” Ms. Harf said.

Amnesty International named this arrest “blatant attempt to gag free media”.

“This move has all the hallmarks of another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan – Khadija Ismayilova is one of the last remaining independent voices in the country,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“Today’s detention order comes hot on the heels of a long series of attempts to silence her. The Azerbaijan authorities must stop this harassment of journalists just for doing their jobs.”

OCCRP editor Drew Sullivan said: “This looks and feels like an escalation of the harrassment Khadija has been facing by the government for reporting news relevant to the people of Azerbaijan. I encourage the government to tolerate investigative reporting and release Khadija and the others facing unfair detention.”

Human Rights Watch named this arrest “devastating blow to critical voices in Azerbaijan”.

“Khadija Ismayilova is an inconvenient messenger, and her arrest fits squarely among the Azerbaijani government’s concerted efforts to silence dissenting voices,” said Giorgi Gogia, senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch. “She should be released immediately.”

Freedom House called authorities of Azerbaijan to drop the charges and allowed to return to her work.

“Khadija Ismailova has long been a thorn in the side of the Azerbaijani government for her fearless reporting on the corruption of President Aliyev and his family,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs. “Indicting her on the bizarre charge of ‘inciting attempted suicide’ shows that the government is determined to eradicate free speech and independent civil society in Azerbaijan at any cost. All charges should be dropped and Ismailova should be allowed to return to her work.”

Human Rights House Foundation called international community, especially the Council of Europe to get a foot in the door to stop the repression in Azerbaijan.

“This sentence does not come as a surprise: we assumed the authorities wanted to silence Khadija Ismayilova,” says Maria Dahle, Executive Director of the Human Rights House Foundation. “The arrest has a chilling effect: one must now consider that every independent civil society leader in Azerbaijan is a target and can be arrested at any given time for any charge, as ludicrous as one can imagine. The international community, especially the Council of Europe, must now get a foot in the door to stop the repression, including by stopping further cooperation with Azerbaijan’s authorities” she added.

Index on Censorship demanded the immediate and unconditional release of journalists and human rights defenders in detention.

“The arrest of Khadija Ismayilova is part of Azerbaijan’s continued crackdown on free media and civil society. This confirms the pattern of intimidation and harassment perpetrated by authorities in an attempt to silence critical voices,” Melody Patry, senior advocacy officer at Index on Censorship, said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ruling and calls on authorities in Azerbaijan to stop their prosecution of Ismayilova, who also faces charges of libel in a separate case.

“We call on Azerbaijani authorities to stop gagging reporters through trumped-up charges and arrests, and immediately release Khadija Ismayilova,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia research associate. “The politicized nature of the arrest is obvious–an award-winning reporter is being harassed for her work in Azerbaijan.”

Robert Hårdh, Executive Director at Civil Rights Defenders”We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Khadija Ismayilova and other journalists and free speech advocates. Ismayilova’s work as a journalist, where she has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, is the obvious cause for the arrest”.

The IWMF is gravely concerned about the detention of investigative journalist and 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Khadija Ismayilova, and is calling on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release her immediately.”

‘The IWMF has no doubt that the charges brought against Khadija Ismayilova are a concerted attempt to silence her and stop her from investigating corruption, malfeasance in the country’s government, and the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President’s family”, said Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF. “We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to respect the principles of press freedom, and immediately release Ismayilova from prison.”

Civic Solidarity Platform called on the Council of Europe to suspend Azerbaijan’s membership until the authorities of the country drop all charges and unconditionally release NGO representatives, lawyers, journalists and political opponents who are currently in detention or prison for their legitimate professional activities, including Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli, Ilgar Mammadov and others.

 

 

Nils Muiznieks: “All of my partners in Azerbaijan are in jail.”

nils-muiznieks_1Comissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muiznieks posted this on his Facebook page:

I recently returned from one of the most difficult missions of my two-and-a-half year tenure as Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. In late October I was in Azerbaijan, the oil-rich country in the South Caucasus, which just finished holding the rotating chairmanship of the 47-member Council of Europe. Most countries chairing the organisation, which prides itself as the continent’s guardian of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, use their time at the helm to tout their democratic credentials. Azerbaijan will go down in history as the country that carried out an unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders during its chairmanship.

All of my partners in Azerbaijan are in jail. It was heart-wrenching to visit Leyla Yunus in pre-trial detention outside of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. Head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, Leyla is Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights activist and one of three finalists for this year’s prestigious Sakharov award, granted by the European Parliament. I do not know whether it was due to her cataracts or her emotional distress, but she cried throughout our half-hour meeting. The 58-year old also has diabetes, Hepatitis C, and kidney problems. She was in particular anguish for not having had the chance to see Arif, her husband of 26 years, for more than three months. He is also in pre-trial detention, despite having had a stroke just prior to his arrest.

The Yunus couple are among the brave activists in the region that have sought to promote dialogue with their counterparts in Armenia, a country with which Azerbaijan has been at war for the last 25 years over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was violently wrested from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed. Arif and Leyla Yunus have both been charged with the crime of treason. Leyla regularly compiled lists of the country’s political prisoners for submission to international organisations. On October 24, the day I left Azerbaijan, a Baku court prolonged Leyla’s pre-trial detention for another four months.

Another difficult meeting was with Intigam Aliyev, one of Azerbaijan’s most renowned human rights lawyers, who is also in pre-trial detention for allegedly violating the restrictive provisions which make human rights work virtually impossible in the country. Until his arrest three months ago, Intigam was the coordinator of the Council of Europe’s legal training programme in the country. He was also legal counsel for dozens of cases against Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights. When the authorities seized all of his documents, including the case files, he said he felt like the rug had been pulled from under his feet. He did not know how he could continue pushing the cases at the European Court or how he could defend himself. Again, the day I left Azerbaijan, his pre-trial detention was prolonged for another three months. When the judge announced his decision, Intigam nearly fainted.

I had a more upbeat meeting with Anar Mammadli, winner of this year’s Vaclav Havel prize, granted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Anar has already been convicted to a five–and-a-half year prison sentence for violating the country’s cumbersome NGO laws (the formal charges were tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of authority). Anar was appealing his conviction and was in good spirits, despite the scant chances of success of his appeal. As one of the country’s most professional organisers of election monitoring, Anar had been harshly critical of several previous ballots in the country. Anar spends most of his time exercising and reading books on political science, philosophy and history. He wanted to know how from prison he could provide input to the Council of Europe’s efforts to assist Azerbaijan improve the legal framework for NGOs.

I also left heartened by a meeting with Rasul Jafarov, the head of an NGO called the Human Rights Club. Though he had had his pre-trial detention extended for another three months the day before I met him, Rasul was in good spirits. Rasul made a name for himself by organising a campaign called “Sing for Democracy” in the run-up to the holding of the Eurovision Song contest, which Azerbaijan hosted in 2012. He had planned to organise a new campaign called “Sports for Democracy” in the run-up to the holding of the European Games in Azerbaijan in 2015. Though he is charged with violations of the NGO law, as we bid farewell to each other, he related his plans to organise a human rights NGO among detainees.

While most of my partners are in detention, others discontinued their human rights work, left the country over the summer, or went into hiding as the crackdown spread. I visited one of the activists in hiding, Emin Huseynov, head of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, an NGO defending journalists in Azerbaijan’s restrictive media context. Though Emin is only 35 years old, he has very high blood pressure and an old spinal injury caused by an encounter with Azerbaijani police batons at an “unauthorised” demonstration a few years ago. Doctors who have examined him say he will not survive an Azerbaijani prison.

These are just some of the activists and journalists languishing in prison or under pressure in Azerbaijan. They are core partners for the Council of Europe – they have all attended roundtables for human rights defenders organised by my Office or participated in events organised by the Parliamentary Assembly. The Council of Europe’s primary friends and partners in the country have almost all been targeted. While this pains me deeply, it also makes practical cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe extremely difficult. The reprisals must stop. Now.

Appeal of Azerbaijan civil society to CoE Secretary General on Joint Working Group

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Pitiful meeting in Baku epitomizes Council of Europe’s failure to hold Azerbaijan accountable for rights violations

Azerbaijani civil society representatives have called on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE) and CoE member states to demand drastic action in the face of the country’s worsening human rights crisis. The first meeting of the joint working group on human rights issues in Azerbaijan – comprised mainly of pro-government NGOs, government officials and members of parliament — did not come close to heeding the calls for immediate, concrete action, say activists.

The working group was initiated by CoE Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland to “retrieve the dialogue between civil society and Azerbaijani authorities”, according to a Council of Europe press release.

Neither the procedures nor selection criteria for appointment to the working group have been made public, and key figures dealing with the issue of political prisoners were excluded from the process.

This group includes two MPs, Samad Seyidov and Ali Huseynli, who have publically stated that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan, and have accused the recently imprisoned human rights defenders of legal violations. This casts doubt on their capacity to take an objective and balanced approach. Although the working group has more than ten members, its composition lacks independent voices and contributions from figures familiar with human rights issues. This further undermines the group’s stated purpose.

An informal survey of current political prisoners in Azerbaijan revealed that in their view, the vast majority (90%) of the people involved in this working group are viewed as non-objective. More than 10 political prisoners (including Ilgar Mammadov, Tofig Yagublu, Leyla Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, NIDA members and others) have signed a petition declaring their concern over attempts by government controlled NGOs to manipulate their cases for political gain – i.e. to whitewash the government’s repressive policies. The prisoners stated that they do not trust the representatives of such NGOs (including Saida Gojamanli, Sahib Mammadov, Alimammad Nuriyev, Novella Jafaroglu) to provide proper defense of their legal rights.

Perhaps the most notable occurrence in relation to this meeting was that well-known journalist and human rights activist Khadija Ismayilova was disinvited to the meeting at the last minute. Although she received as official invitation to participate in the working group on October 21st, she was not allowed in on the actual day of the meeting. “I was told that I was not on the guest list. I called Vugar Aliyev in the President’s Office, and he said he was surprised and said that it was impossible. Then he called back and said that some of the other participants opposed my attendance,” Ismayilova said.

One of the most vocal opponents of Ismayilova’s participation was Sahib Mammadov, Chairman of the Citizens’ Labor Rights Protection League NGO. Mammadov heads the secretariat of the group, and is notorious for his defamatory comments towards human rights NGOs and international donors. For instance, during the most recent session of the OSCE/ ODIHR in Warsaw in September, he accused Azerbaijan’s human rights NGOs of money laundering and lack of transparency – which, he argued, justify the repressive policies of the regime.

The majority of the members of the current Working Group have previously served as members of the Committee for Public Control over Penitentiary Service under the Ministry of Justice. The failure of this Committee to function effectively is discouraging in relation to the activity of the current Working Group.

We would like to emphasize in particular that this group has been designed to reduce the role of the Co-rapporteur on Political Prisoners, who is mandated to prepare a report. The main task of the Working Group will be to contribute government-approved views, under the guise of an independent voice.

Thus at an event billed as an opportunity for dialogue between civil society and government, aimed at achieving concrete improvements to the human rights situation, human rights defenders are unwelcome. The ongoing harassment of Khadija Ismayilova and the prevention of her participation in the working group is nothing but a full-blown assault on values the Council of Europe has pledged to uphold.

Secretary General Jagland,

Council of Europe member states:

The alarm bells keep ringing. There are more than 90 political prisoners behind bars. Presidential pardons for innocent people who have been imprisoned for expressing their opinions is not a solution to the human rights crisis in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe and its member states cannot continue to ignore the situation. Azerbaijan’s civil society is ringing the alarm. The Council of Europe needs to answer this call.

How to support Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov and Intiqam Aliyev for Sakharov Prize 2014?

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Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe, and therefore bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. In May 2014, Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of the organization. However, despite this, the Azerbaijani authorities have recently unleashed an unprecedented wave of repression, targeting opposition politicians, journalists, civil society representatives, and human rights defenders.

Today, human rights activists such as Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov and Intiqam Aliyev stand for the many who are defending basic human rights and European values in Azerbaijan and who are subject to repression and imprisonment for doing so.

By awarding them the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2014 the European Parliament would send a strong signal to a region vital to Europe, at a moment when courageous human rights defenders are needed more than ever.

How the Sakharov Prize 2014 is awarded?

In the next 10 days, the nominations of the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights will be decided by the European Parliament. The prize is awarded to “honour exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.”

Previous winners include Nelson Mandela, Reporters without Borders and Anatoli Marchenko. If you believe that Azerbaijani human rights defenders – who are now in jail following years of work on behalf of the rights of others, and most recently on a list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan (on which they are now included) – then let the MEPs who vote on this know.

Nominations for the Sakharov Prize can be made by:
-Political groups in the European Parliament.
Or
-At least 40 MEPs.

The deadline for nominations is Monday 18 September at 12:00 in Strasbourg.

How to support these three?

Gerald Knaus from European Stability Initiative (ESI) writes, “This is hard work, lots of letters and emails and phone calls and meetings yet to be held. And arguments to make why Azerbaijani human rights defenders today deserve this more than other very worthy causes. But it can be done and they deserve it! Anyone who wants to send personal emails explaining why this would be a good idea please do so: MEPs need to get a sense that this is important, crucial even, at this very moment. Each email should ask whether the MEP is willing to support these three for the prize (as a group, representing the courageous human rights community in the country now under siege). If any MEP writes back and say yes, please let us know: g.knaus@esiweb.org.”

Please don’t forget to mention ongoing crackdown and repressions againist civil society in Azerbaijan.

Click to contact your MEP.