Marietje Schaake, amongst others, wrote an open letter regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Please refer to the letter below.
See also Schaake's Parliamentary work on 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
Open Letter Regarding the Human Rights Situation in Azerbaijan13 April 2015 We the undersigned are alarmed by the deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Arrests and detentions of journalists, civil society and human rights activists, religious believers, and opposition figures have multiplied; Azerbaijan now has twice as many political prisoners as Russia and Belarus combined. The government has targeted domestic and foreign NGOs, freezing their bank accounts and effectively paralyzing them. Senior government officials have engaged in an ugly anti-Western campaign. Corruption is a huge problem and inhibits the country’s ability to flourish economically and politically. The December 26 raid on the office of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a publicly funded news organization that reaches countries in the former Soviet Union and beyond, represents a direct challenge to the principles of freedom of speech. Through these actions and statements, the government of Azerbaijan has openly rejected its international obligations as signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Open Government Partnership as well as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and as a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The time has come to impose consequences on the Azerbaijani government for its abysmal treatment of its own people. Official expressions of concern about the deteriorating human rights situation have not yielded results. Accordingly, more concrete measures including targeted sanctions against specific government officials should be adopted to reverse this trend and bring Azerbaijan back to a path toward meaningful European integration. Western governments and parliaments should:
- Impose a visa ban and asset freeze on senior Azerbaijani government officials responsible for and involved in gross human rights abuses. In the United States, President Obama has existing authority to deny visas under an August 2011 presidential proclamation that bars entry to “persons who participate in serious human rights abuses.” We urge other democratic states to follow suit.
- Block trade promotion assistance—e.g., in the U.S., Export-Import Bank and OPIC support—to Azerbaijani state-owned entities.
- Convene congressional/parliamentary hearings on the declining human rights situation in Azerbaijan to shine a spotlight on the abuses. Increasing awareness about the real situation inside the country is imperative.
- Organize a political leaders' boycott of the inaugural European Olympic Games, which the Aliyev government will host in June. We also urge corporate partners of the games to withdraw their sponsorship.
- Khadija Ismayilova, an intrepid journalist and contributor to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service who has been detained on spurious allegations. A representative for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) called Ms. Ismayilova’s arrest “nothing but orchestrated intimidation.”
- Activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, accused of spying for Armenian secret services—implausible charges linked to the decades-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Ms. Yunus’s health is deteriorating rapidly, as she has been denied medical treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure and hepatitis.
- Several leading opposition figures—including Ilgar Mammadov of the opposition movement REAL and Tofig Yakublu of Musavat—who languish in prison on unsubstantiated charges. In an October 2014 decision that should be binding on Azerbaijan, the European Court for Human Rights found Ilgar Mammadov to be a political prisoner and, citing numerous violations of the European Charter, called for his immediate release. Appeals pertaining to other political prisoners are being considered by the ECHR.
- The trial of Rasul Jafarov began in January 2015. He is head of the Human Rights Club which took a leading role in exposing human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, particularly with his Sing for Democracy Campaign that embarrassed the government during the Eurovision song contests. He has provided information about political prisoners, including Muslims jailed for the non-violent practice of their faith or advocacy for religious freedom. Most were sentenced for publicly protesting what is in effect a ban on headscarves in schools;13 of that group are still imprisoned and seven were released in 2014.
- Activists Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) were arrested and handed multi-year prison sentences following their public criticism of fraud in the October 2013 presidential election. They were among the first human rights activists arrested in the crackdown on civil society. Suleymanli was recently pardoned but Mammadli, who was awarded the 2014 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, remains in prison.
- Intiqam Aliyev, head of the Legal Education Society and one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights lawyers, was arrested on trumped-up charges last summer. If convicted, he faces up to twelve years in jail. Aliyev has submitted more than two hundred cases to the European Court of Human Rights concerning violations of fundamental freedoms of Azerbaijani citizens. In 2013, in recognition of his exceptional commitment to protecting human rights, Mr. Aliyev was awarded the People in Need Homo Homini Award.
- Rauf Mirkadirov, a prominent independent journalist and columnist with Zerkalo newspaper, was arrested in Baku airport in April 2014, after being deported from Turkey. Mirkadirov, who had been living in Turkey, was charged with espionage on behalf of Armenia, following a trip he made to Armenia to meet with civil society activists.
- Emin Huseynov, director of the Azerbaijani NGO Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), has been in hiding in Azerbaijan since August 2014. He is the subject of a travel ban and faces imminent arrest due to criminal charges that stem from his lawful human rights work. Other employees of IRFS have similarly faced travel bans, as well as interrogations, asset freezes, and physical attacks. Several were forced to flee the country. IRFS was raided by the Azerbaijani government around the time Huseynov went into hiding and remains closed to this day.
- Release all political prisoners and those imprisoned for practicing their non-violent religious beliefs and grant them full political rehabilitation. Those imprisoned or on trial on religion-related charges, including those who publicly protested the de facto hijab ban, should have their rights fully restored.
- Permit unrestricted visits by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.
- Cease harassment and intimidation of family members of opposition activists, human rights defenders, and their lawyers.
- Respect the rights of journalists to do their job unhindered.
- End the campaign against domestic and foreign non-governmental organizations and stop the push for legislation that would restrict the activities and funding of NGOs.
- Create the conditions for free and fair parliamentary elections later this year.
- Permit foreign broadcasters to resume operations without fear of state harassment and raids.