A leading human rights group has strongly condemned the arrest of human rights activist Leyla Yunus and her husband on charges of of high treason and other crimes.
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety denounced the “trumped-up legal assault” as “the most recent in a host of troubling moves by the Azerbaijani government that demonstrate how far Azerbaijan has strayed from international standards of human rights and rule of law.”
“Leyla Yunus is the latest victim of the Azerbaijani authorities’ merciless campaign of repression in the wake of 2013 Presidential Election”, said IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov:
The move comes on the heels of the Presidential office-orchestrated campaign against civil society that has included a state-controlled media smear campaign; the raids on NGOs; confiscation of equipment; arrest of NGO bank accounts which led to de facto shutdown of several NGOs; the intimidation and legal pursuit of NGO workers inside and outside the country, including IRFS partners–International Media Support, IREX and National Endowment for Democracy.
The raids – in which officials from the prosecutor’s office, tax inspectorate and ministry of justice comb through registration and financial documents -are being conducted under controversial amendments to the law, requiring NGOs to register their grants within Ministry of Justice.
While Azerbaijani tax and Ministry of Justice do have powers to supervise that non-profit entities comply with legislation in force, the context in which the current NGO inspections are being carried out coupled with their scope and nature can only create the impression that they are aimed at intimidating and putting pressure on NGOs, in particular those that benefit from foreign grants for public advocacy work on human rights and related issues.
Since President Aliyev assumed his third term in October 2013, we have witnessed a wave of repressive measures in the country that have sought to silence civil society, the group notes.