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Persecution of rights activists must stop – UN experts call on the Government of Azerbaijan

GENEVA (19 August 2014) – United Nations human rights experts* 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.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as ‘Special Procedures’, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. ‘Special Procedures’ is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 38 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 73 mandate holders.

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For more information, visit:
Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
Freedom of assembly: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx
Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

Check the UN experts’ previous appeals to the Government of Azerbaijan:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14582&LangID=E
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13829&LangID=E

OHCHR Country Page – Azerbaijan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/AZIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 22 917 9183 / defenders@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en