Azerbaijan - Sport for Rights : Anniversary of human rights defender’s arrest marks one year of unprecedented repression in Azerbaijan

30/07/2015
Communiqué

A year after the Azerbaijani government launched an unprecedented crackdown on human rights, the situation in the country continues to deteriorate. The Sport for Rights Coalition calls on the international community to immediately and publicly condemn the government of Azerbaijan’s actions and take concrete steps to support Azerbaijani civil society.

One year ago, on 30 July 2014, Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus was arrested and charged with treason, fraud, forgery, tax evasion, and illegal entrepreneurship. Yunus, the Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, was a tireless rights advocate, likely targeted for her work on behalf of Azerbaijan’s many political prisoners, and her call for a boycott of the inaugural European Games, which took place in Baku in June 2015.

Yunus’s arrest marked the start of a period of unprecedented repression in Azerbaijan. The human rights situation in the country has now reached alarming lows as the authorities aggressively pursue the very individuals who worked to defend those already targeted for expressing critical opinions.

On 2 August 2014, human rights defender and founder of the Sport for Rights campaign Rasul Jafarov was arrested on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power. On 5 August 2014, Leyla Yunus’s husband Arif Yunus, a historian and activist in his own right, was arrested, followed by human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev on 8 August 2014, on similar charges.

Also on 8 August 2014, authorities searched and closed the office of Azerbaijan’s leading press freedom organisation, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), as part of a wider criminal investigation into a large group of NGOs working on issues related to democracy and human rights. IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov sought refuge in the Swiss Embassy in Baku, where he remained for 10 months, fearing arrest. On 12 June, Huseynov flew out of Azerbaijan on the plane of Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who attended the opening ceremony of the European Games in Baku.

For many years now, the Azerbaijani authorities have employed a range of tactics to silence critical voices, from physical attacks and torture to blackmail and imprisonment. In Huseynov’s case, however, they introduced an outrageous new tactic. In an unprecedented step, in violation of international and Azerbaijani law, the government stripped Huseynov of his Azerbaijani citizenship. He has become a stateless person, left with no choice but to apply for asylum in Switzerland.

Many other human rights defenders and journalists have fled Azerbaijan out of fear for their safety. The Sport for Rights coalition fears that without widespread international condemnation, the same tactic could be applied to others, with the nationality of “unwelcome” activists renounced.

Read the full statement :

Sport for Rights : Anniversary of human rights defender’s arrest marks one year of unprecedented repression...

Lire la suite
communique