Since 30 July 2014, the human rights lawyer Leyla Yunus of Azerbaijan is in prison. She spent her 52nd birthday in prison on 21 December 2014. Her health has heavily deteriorated whilst in detention. She put in solitary confinement for a day last week without any reason. International organizations repeat their call for her immediate and unconditional release.
Today a number of political refugees protested repressions againist sivil society in Azerbaijan. Action took place in front of European Parliament in Brussels. Activists from NİDA Civic Movement, DAH, Senlibart and others joined the demonstration.
“Aliyev clan is best proof of European double standards.”
The European Parliament,
– having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Azerbaijan, in particular those concerning human rights and the rule of law,
– having regard to the statement of 8 September 2014 of European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle in Baku on the crucial role played by civil society in the Eastern Partnership,
– having regard to the statements of spokespersons of Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton of July 17, August 2nd and August 8th 2014 regarding arrests of prominent civil society actors in Azerbaijan,
– having regard to the statement of 1 August 2014 of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, concerning the arrest of Leyla Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan
– having regard to the statement of 1 August 2014 of Isabel Santos, the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions concerning the crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan,
– having regard to the Baku Declaration adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its annual session between 28 June and 2 July 2014 where concern is expressed at the misuse of administrative procedures and legislation to detain, imprison, intimidate or otherwise silence human rights defenders and critics in numerous OSCE participating States,
– having regard to the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Article 1, Article 5 and Article 12.2 on the freedom to participate in non-profit organizations and the state’s responsibility to protect individuals from violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights,
– having regard to the established relationship between the EU and Azerbaijan, which took effect in 1999, as represented by the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan, the creation of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the negotiations on an EU-Azerbaijan association agreement and Azerbaijan’s participation in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly,
– having regard to the ongoing negotiations between the EU and Azerbaijan on an association agreement,
– having regard to the 2013 ENP country progress report on Azerbaijan, dated 27 March 2014,
– having regard to Rules 122(5) and 110(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas the overall human rights situation in Azerbaijan has deteriorated continuously over the last few years despite the adoption of the ENP Action Plan, with growing pressure on, and intimidation of, NGOs and independent media, engendering a widespread sense of fear among opposition forces, human rights defenders and youth and social network activists and leading to self-censorship among journalists,
B. whereas in Azerbaijan several civil society activists have been arrested since mid-July in an unprecedented aggressive crackdown on civil society, many others have had their bank accounts frozen, including mainstream NGOs that aren’t working on politically sensitive issues, and others are under travel bans to leave the country,
C. whereas in the course of one week in early August, several of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders were confined in pre-trial detention for a period of three months,
D. whereas Hasan Huseynli, head of “Intelligent Citizen” Enlightenment Center Public Union in Azerbaijan, was sentenced to a lengthy prison term by the Ganja Court on 14 July 2014 on alleged charges of ‘hooliganism’,
E. whereas Leyla Yunus, the director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, and her husband, Arif Yunus, were arrested on 30 July 2014 on charges of treason, tax evasion and other financial crimes and sentenced to pre-trial detention,
F. whereas activist Rasul Jafarov, coordinator of the Art for Democracy campaign and the head of Human Rights Club was subjected to official harassment, banned from traveling abroad and his bank account was frozen,
G. whereas on the morning of 8 August 2014, human rights defender Intigam Aliyev head of the human rights organization, Legal Education Society, was summoned for interrogation and charged with tax evasion, illegal enterprise, abuse of official power and sent to pre-trial detention,
H. whereas on 21 August 2014, Ilqar Nasibov, a human rights defender and journalist working for the Resource Centre for Development of Democracy and NGOs in Nakhchivan City was found seriously wounded and his office destroyed,
I. whereas he was released prematurely from hospital and while a preliminary police investigation was initiated no decision on whether to open a criminal case has yet been adopted despite the serious injuries he sustained,
J. whereas the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), expresses its deep concern about the above-mentioned events, and fears that Mr. Nasibov was attacked as a result of his human rights activities,
K. whereas the independent Azerbaijani newspaper “Azadliq” was forced to suspend publishing due to alleged financial problems as it had previously faced official pressure apparently in connection to its reporting on corruption,
L. whereas Mr Anar Mammadli, Chairperson of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), and Mr Bashir Suleymanli, Director of EMDS, were sentenced to respectively 5 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years and 6 months on 26 May 2014 mainly on charges of illegal entrepreneurship;
M. whereas, at the same time, 8 activists of the non-governmental youth movement NIDA, were convicted on charges of hooliganism, drug possession and possession of explosives, as well as intent to cause public disorder, and another NIDA activist, Mr Ömar Mammadov, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment on charges of drug possession with the aim of selling it on 4 July 2014,
N. whereas many more journalists and activists are facing legal charges brought against them in Azerbaijan,
O. whereas Mr Ilgar Mammadov and Mr Tofiq Yaqublu remain in detention and Mr Ilgar Mammadov was arrested after he had been confirmed as the REAL opposition party’s candidate for the presidential election of 9 October 2013, as stated in points A and D of European Parliament resolution from 13 June 2013,
P. whereas, the European Court of Human Rights considered that Mr Ilgar Mammadov, had been arrested and detained without any evidence to reasonably suspect him of having committed the offence with which he was charged, namely that of having organised actions leading to public disorder;
Q. whereas the intimidation, arrest, detention or prosecution of opposition party leaders or members, activists, journalists or bloggers because they have exercised their fundamental rights and freedoms such as freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and organization constitutes a violation of their civic and political rights,
R. whereas Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov, before they were themselves arrested, led a group of prominent human rights defenders and experts in Azerbaijan that produced a list of nearly one hundred Azerbaijanis who qualify under the definition adopted by the Council of Europe in 2012 as “political prisoners”
S. whereas amendments to the Law on Grants, the Law on Non-governmental
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.
-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: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Please don’t forget to mention ongoing crackdown and repressions againist civil society in Azerbaijan.