“The situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan has dramatically deteriorated since my last visit to this country in November 2013”, Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE), Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) rapporteur on ‘Strengthening the role and protection of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States’ said today.
“Fundamental freedoms are persistently breached and, appallingly, this is happening at a time when Azerbaijan holds the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, an organisation based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law”, she said.
“I am very worried about various intimidation measures being taken against human rights defenders, other civic activists, journalists and bloggers – such as arbitrary arrests, unfair trials on fabricated charges and even the use of torture in custody. Some of these measures also target our long-term friends and collaborators, including human rights defender Leyla Yunus, who is under constant judicial and administrative harassment, Anar Mammadli, head of the prominent watchdog Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre or Ilgar Mammadov, director of the Baku School of Political Studies sponsored by the Council of Europe – both have recently been convicted to long-term prison sentences on the basis of politically motivated charges. Moreover, NGOs working on human rights issues face serious difficulties in registering or getting funding,” Mailis Reps added.
“This continuous crackdown on civil society and the persistent breach of fundamental values are unacceptable. I call for an immediate release of Ilgar Mammadov, Anar Mammadli and his colleagues – Bashir Suleymanki and Elnur Mammadov, and many other ‘prisoners of conscience’,” the rapporteur concluded.
The rapporteur had been on a fact finding visit in Azerbaijan in November 2013.