In a statement issued by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the experts said they are “appalled” by several incidents in which Azerbaijani officials use surveillance and interrogation to arrest and sentence rights activists “on the basis of trumped-up charges.”
They said the “criminalization of rights activists must stop” and that those who have been unjustly detained be “immediately freed,” including Leyla Yunus (above), Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Intigam Aliyev.
Independent civil society groups this week released a list of political prisoners that meet the criteria adopted by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. The list, containing as many as 98 names, was compiled under the leadership of Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov.
“As an irony of fate, and as a confirmation that the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan is enormous, unsolved and underestimated,” notes one observer, ‘Yunus and Jafarov now find themselves behind bars.”
Yunus, arguably one of the fiercest critics of Azerbaijan’s poor rights record, and her husband Arif Yunus, have been accused of treason, spying for Armenia, and illegal business activities, among other financial charges, the Guardian reports:
The list is based on the definition of political prisoner offered by the Council of Europe, which aims to promote human rights on the continent. The organisation’s secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland said he had spoken to Azeri president Iham Aliyev, and told him of his “deep concerns about the arrests of prominent human rights defenders in recent days”. Despite its rights record, Azerbaijan currently presides over the organisation’s committee of ministers….. Azeri investigative journalist Khadiya Ismayil told The Guardian that Aliyev has now been added as the last entry…..
Laws regulating NGOs have been tightened this year, making it more difficult to register and run them. At the time, then-EU foreign policy chief expressed concern that the move was aimed at “restricting the environment for an independent and critical civil society, especially in the field of human rights and democracy”.
International human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders also called on the authorities to immediately release Azerbaijani journalists and human rights advocates.
“The crackdown on the civil society in Azerbaijan has once again come to demonstrate how Aliyev’s regime continues to use authoritarian methods of governance, despite the fact that the country chairs the Council of Europe,” stated Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders Robert Hardh.