PACE committee calls for the release of civil society activists in Azerbaijan

Strasbourg, 30.09.2014 - The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) today unanimously adopted the following statement:

“The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights deplores the recent arrests and convictions of human rights defenders and NGO leaders in Azerbaijan.

The committee is concerned that during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, within the space of a few weeks, four prominent, respected civil society activists have been placed in pre-trial detention on allegedly trumped-up charges related to their activities, in particular: human rights lawyer Antigam Aliyev; Rasul Jafarov, founder of the NGO “Human Rights Club”; and Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, and her husband Arif Yunus, both also being accused of “treason”. Moreover, the head of the Election Monitoring Centre, Anar Mammadli, recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014, his colleague Bashir Suleymanli and Hasan Huseynli, leader of the NGO “Intelligent Citizen” were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. All of them had closely co-operated with the Council of Europe.

The committee considers these arrests and convictions as retaliation for the critical views expressed by the activists. It is also worried about the state of health of Leyla Yunus, who has reportedly been subject to ill-treatment and deprived of adequate medical treatment.

Consequently, the committee calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to release the above-mentioned civil society activists, refrain from unfairly prosecuting others and ensure the application of the standards laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights. It recalls that full respect for freedom of expression, assembly and association is a necessary condition for the functioning of any democratic and pluralistic society, to which Azerbaijan aspires as a member of the Council of Europe, and it awaits, as a matter of increasing urgency, the report of its Rapporteur on “Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe: what follow-up on respect of human rights?”.