Security forces crush post-election opposition, killing one and wounding hundreds

Press release

According to reports of local and international observers such as the OSCE, the presidential elections were marred with numerous irregularities (ballot box stuffing, intimidation of voters, hindering of observers’ activities, inaccuracy of voters lists, etc.).

According to information received from the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, at the announcement of Ilham Aliev’s election on 15 October, several calls to demonstration were made. For instance, Issa Gambar, an opposition candidate, denounced the numerous irregularities and acts of intimidation of voters that occurred on poll day, and called on his supporters to demonstrate. Thousands of people marched on 16 October in the centre of Baku. As they began to gather, they were surrounded by police forces. Protesters drove them away and wounded several police officers. They then marched towards Azadliq Square ("Freedom Square"), where they were violently attacked by thousands of riot and military forces, as well as police officers in civilian clothes. Tear gas, rubber bullets, truncheons, and police dogs were used to scatter protesters. Hamigada Zahidov, 52, was beaten up to death. According to his brother, Mr. Zahidov had come to demonstrate in order to "protect his rights". Numerous but unconfirmed reports of deaths are being investigated. A 5 years old child who was run over by a military truck attacked by angry demonstrators is in a coma.

Reports say that at least 25 local and foreign journalists who wanted to cover the demonstration were arrested and beaten up. Some of them had to be sent to hospital.

On 15 October, another opposition demonstration was repressed. Supporters of Musavat and ANIP, two opposition political parties, were violently assaulted by the police while they were peacefully protesting the election in front of Musavat headquarters. Many demonstrators were beaten up. Protesters then took refuge in the building, but were trapped inside by the police, which attacked them when they attempted to leave.

The FIDH recalls that presidential elections were awaited by the international community and considered as a test to assess the country’s efforts towards the transition to the rule of law. Far from establishing democracy and the rule of law, it seems that Azerbaijan has chosen to take the opposite path, and to not only persist obstinately in arbitrariness, but also to contribute actively to the worsening of an already deplorable situation through the use of unjustified violence. These events constitute a serious backward step. Azerbaijan openly violates its commitments towards the OSCE and the Council of Europe, of which it has been a member since 25 January 2001, as well as all its regional and international obligations. It is worth mentioning that those unacceptable events take place just two weeks after the fifth Co-operation Council between the EU and Azerbaijan, during which the parties agreed that respect for human rights and the rule of law were essential for peace and stability in the region. Considering Azerbaijan’s lack of political will to implement its obligations and to respect basic fundamental freedoms, the FIDH therefore urges the international community, and in particular the European Union, to use their political and diplomatic influence and to take the necessary measures in order to pressure the authorities to conforming to human rights basic standards.

The FIDH urges the new President of Azerbaijan to take the necessary measures to ensure that violence against opposition protesters and journalists cease immediately. The FIDH also demands that the authorities ensure that the individuals responsible for Mr. Zahidov’s death and for the repression of demonstrations are identified, immediately dismissed, subject to an independent trial, and punished according to the national laws in force. The culture of impunity must end now.

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