Azerbaijan: Official visit of azerbaijani President in France on October 27

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Mr. François Hollande
President de la French Republic
Elysée Palace

Paris-Geneva, October 24, 2014

Re: Concerns over the situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan

Dear Mr. President,

On the occasion of the visit of President Ilham Aliyev in France this coming 27 October, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), along with the French League of Human Rights (LDH), call on you to demonstrate France’s commitment to the protection of human rights and to put the protection of defenders and liberties on the agenda for the discussions with your Azeri counterpart.

Over the past few months Azerbaijan has experienced a wave of repression and arrests in contravention of international law against a large number of human rights defenders. The repressive practices have intensified against Mrs. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of the General Assembly of the OMCT, against her husband Mr. Arif Yunus, against Mr. Intigam Aliyev, President of the “Legal Education Society,” against Mr. Rasul Jafarov, President of the Human Rights Club of Azerbaijan, and against Mr. Emil Mammadov, Director of the NGO “Promoting Democracy.” All these defenders were arrested arbitrarily and remain in detention, with no set trial date.

We also wish to express our grave concern about the risks of inhumane treatment of Azeri human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition figures. In this respect, Mrs. Leyla Yunus, to whom you awarded the French Legion of Honor, was transferred last October 18 to the investigation prison of the Ministry of Internal Security, were she faced a serious risk of torture. The United Nations Committee Against Torture and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have repeatedly expressed their grave concerns regarding the conditions of detention in this prison, which is the only one in Azerbaijan that does not answer to the Ministry of Justice.

In addition, Messrs Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymani, President and Executive Director, respectively, of the Center for the Study of Election Monitoring and Democracy, Mr. Hilal Mamadov, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Tolishi-Sado (The Voice of the Talysh) and Mr. Hasan Huseynli, Head of the NGO “Intelligent Citizen,” were sentenced following unfair trials based on false accusations with the aim of limiting their activities on behalf of human rights.

The persecution also takes the form of searches and raids at the premises of organizations and the homes of defenders, threats against families, or bans against leaving the country. On August 5, 2014, Mr. Emin Huseinov, President of the Institute of Journalists for Peace and Security (IFRS), was prevented from leaving the country while trying to go abroad for medical reasons. Several defenders have suffered violent attacks, such as Mr. Ilqar Nasibov, who was brutally attacked last August 21 on the premises of the Nakhichevan Resource Center for Democracy and Human Rights, for which he works as a journalist.

All these cases are part of a campaign of deliberate repression aimed at restricting freedom of expression and association in Azerbaijan. We are particularly concerned by the context of a general hardening in the countries of the former Soviet bloc and by the spread of freedom-destroying laws from Russia. We must remember that Azerbaijan has also adopted a law aimed at restricting foreign financing of independent NGOs, along with their freedom of action. NGOs that are not on the official registry risk criminal prosecution, which has already been brought against some twenty independent NGOs.

We want to emphasize that on September 30, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly deplored the recent arrests and convictions of human rights defenders and NGO leaders in Azerbaijan, and it called for the release of Messrs Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev, of Mrs. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunus, and of Messrs Anar Mammadli, Bashir Suleymani and Hasan Huseynli.

We think that the visit of President Ilham Aliyev is France’s opportunity to advance the cause of Human Rights in Azerbaijan. Please insist that your Azeri counterpart comply with international standards in Azerbaijan and put a stop to the repression of the right to freedom of expression and to the reprisals against independent NGOs.

In the hope that you will pay special attention to our concerns and that you will share them with President Ilham Aliyev, please accept, Mr. President, our very highest regards.

Karim LAHIDJI, President of the FIDH
Pierre TARTAKOWSKY, President of the LDH
Yves BERTHELOT, President of the OMCT

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