GENEVA – United Nations human rights experts, including Maina Kiai, today condemned the growing tendency to prosecute prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and urged the Government “to show leadership and reverse the trend of repression, criminalization and prosecution of human rights work in the country.”
“We are appalled by the increasing incidents of surveillance, interrogation, arrest, sentencing on the basis of trumped-up charges, assets-freezing and ban on travel of the activists in Azerbaijan,” they said. “The criminalization of rights activists must stop. Those who were unjustifiably detained for defending rights should be immediately freed.”
The experts highlighted the specific cases of Leyla Yunus, director of the Azerbaijani Institute of Peace and Democracy; Arif Yunus, head of Conflict Studies in the Institute of Peace and Democracy; Rasul Jafarov, coordinator of Art of Democracy and head of Human Rights Club; and Intigam Aliyev, chair of Legal Education Society.
“We are alarmed at the wave of politically-motivated repression of activists in reprisal for their legitimate work in documenting and reporting human rights violations,” they noted, reiterating their grave concerns about the deteriorating situation in the country for the third time in less than a year.
The UN experts reminded the authorities of their legal obligations under international human rights law, which guarantees everyone in Azerbaijan the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, without undue interference.
“The State’s primary responsibility should be to protect its civil society activists from intimidation, harassment, threats or attacks,” they stressed.
“Azerbaijan’s recent membership of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations does not square well with the authorities’ actions directed at stifling freedoms on the ground,” the UN rights experts noted.
The experts: The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye.