MEP: No European politicians to European Games in Baku until political prisoners are released

Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake (D66/ALDE) calls on European leaders not to attend official ceremonies during the European Games in Azerbaijan, until political prisoners are released. Today the European Parliament will debate the European Games, which will be held from the 12th to the 28th of June. Human Rights  Azerbaijan currently detains twice as many political prisoners as Russia and Belarus combined. Journalists, human rights defenders and activists are being imprisoned and do not get a fair trial. Schaake: "The authorities in Azerbaijan are interested in hosting major international events, in order to increase the international stature of Azerbaijan. Yet the European Games should not mask the fact that fundamental rights are systematically being violated. Activists such as Leyla Yunus, who was nominated for the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament last year, are in prison without medical care or access to a lawyer. Only after political prisoners are released it is appropriate for European politicians to attend the official gatherings in Baku." European Games In the days before the European Games are opened, Amnesty International has been denied entry to Azerbaijan. Schaake: "This is unacceptable. The label "European" should have meaning, and the Games should only be organised in countries where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected. Especially now, when the spotlight is on Azerbaijan, European leaders should stand for human rights in the country." On the 28th of May, Schaake and MEPs from other political groups in the European Parliament submitted a joint statement to High Representative Mogherini, Commissioner Hahn and the 28 European Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
Watch Schaake's plenary speech on the European Games in Azerbaijan: Marietje Schaake (ALDE) Mr President, the Azerbaijani authorities are eager to host high-level, high-visibility international events. They bring status, visitors and media attention. But the limelight of the European Games cannot and will not overshadow the very troubling human rights situation in Azerbaijan, where an unprecedented number of people are imprisoned. Opposition leaders, journalists, human rights defenders – and really anyone who is critical – risk intimidation and imprisonment, and some of the brightest minds have now fled the country. It is not appropriate to have EU officials participating in ceremonies starting in a couple of days, so long as political prisoners are not released. After all, the label ‘European’ should mean something. When rights are respected, we can build a much more powerful and meaningful partnership between the EU and Azerbaijan. In the meantime we will not forget the political prisoners, and we urge the Azerbaijani authorities to release them as soon as possible and to allow human rights NGOs, such as Amnesty International, access to the country.
See also Schaake’s Parliamentary work on Azerbaijan: 15-04-2015 Open Letter Regarding the Human Rights Situation in Azerbaijan 17-09-2014 Resolution on the persecution of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan 13-06-2013 Plenary speech on Azerbaijan, the case of Ilgar Mammadov 24-05-2012 Plenary speech & Resolution on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan 15-12-2011 Plenary speech & Resolution on Azerbaijan, in particular the case of Rafig Tagi 12-05-2011 Plenary speech & Resolution on Azerbaijan 17-12-2009 Plenary speech on Azerbaijan, freedom of expression