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AZERBAIJAN 2020 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The constitution provides for a republic with a presidential form of government. Legislative authority is vested in the Milli Mejlis (National Assembly). The presidency is the predominant branch of government, exceeding the judiciary and legislature. On February 9, the government conducted National Assembly elections. The election observation mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe concluded that the National Assembly elections and the 2018 presidential election took place within a restrictive legislative framework and political environment, which prevented genuine competition in these elections.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service are responsible for security within the country and report directly to the president. The Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees local police forces and maintains internal civil defense troops. The State Security Service is responsible for domestic matters, and the Foreign Intelligence Service focuses on foreign intelligence and counterintelligence matters. The State Migration Service and the State Border Service are responsible for migration and border enforcement. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of security forces committed some abuses.
During 44 days of intensive fighting from September 27 to November 10 involving Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Armenia-supported separatists, significant casualties and atrocities were reported by all sides. After Azerbaijan, with Turkish support, reestablished control over four surrounding territories controlled by separatists since 1994, a Russian-brokered ceasefire arrangement announced by Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 9 resulted in the peaceful transfer of control over three additional territories to Azerbaijan, as well as the introduction of Russian peacekeepers to the region. Since 1995 the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh has been the subject of international mediation by the cochairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group (the United States, France, and Russia). There was also an outbreak of violence with casualties along the international border between Azerbaijan and Armenia near Tovuz from July 12 to July 16. During the period of martial law from September 28 to December 12, which the government declared following the outbreak of hostilities on September 27, authorities restricted freedom of movement and access to information.
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Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country; pervasive problems with the independence of the judiciary; heavy restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence against journalists, the criminalization of libel and slander, harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges, and blocking of websites; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation; and existence of the worst forms of child labor. Significant human rights issues connected with the Nagorno- Karabakh armed conflict included unlawful killings, civilian casualties, and inhuman treatment.
The government did not prosecute or punish the majority of officials who committed human rights abuses; impunity remained a problem.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
The Office of the Prosecutor General is empowered to investigate whether killings committed by the security forces were justifiable and pursue prosecutions.
Reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings in police custody continued. For example, on November 9, Talysh historian and activist Fakhraddin Abbasov reportedly died in Gobustan prison under suspicious circumstances. Prison authorities stated he committed suicide. On October 13, he reportedly announced that his life was in danger and warned family and supporters not to believe future claims he had died by suicide. Some human rights activists also noted suicide was against Abbasov’s religious views.
During the 44 days of intensive fighting involving Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Armenia-supported separatists, there were credible reports of unlawful killings involving summary executions and civilian casualties (see sections 1.b., 1.c., 1.d.,
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020
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2.a., 5, and 6, and the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020 for Armenia). The sides to the conflict submitted complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) accusing each other of committing atrocities. The cases remained pending with the ECHR.
In early October, two videos surfaced on social media of Azerbaijani soldiers humiliating and executing two Armenian detainees in the town of Hadrut. On October 15, the videos were assessed as genuine by independent experts from Bellingcat, the BBC, and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL). Armenian authorities identified the victims as civilian residents Benik Hakobyan (age 73) and Yuriy Adamyan (age 25). Digital forensic analysis by the DFRL and Bellingcat concluded the video footage was authentic, noting it was filmed in Hadrut, Nagorno-Karabakh, and showed the captives being taken by men speaking Russian and Azerbaijani and wearing Azerbaijani uniforms. One of the captors in the video was wearing a helmet typically worn by members of the Azerbaijani special forces, according to the Atlantic Council and Bellingcat analyses. The government stated the videos were staged.
In another high-profile example, on December 10, Amnesty International issued a report based on 22 videos it had authenticated, out of dozens of videos circulating on social media depicting atrocities committed by both Azerbaijanis and ethnic Armenians. Among these 22 videos, the Amnesty report documented the execution by decapitation of two ethnic Armenian civilians by Azerbaijani forces, one of whom wore a helmet that Amnesty reported was associated with special operations forces. Amnesty urged both countries to investigate what it described as “war crimes.”
There were credible reports of Azerbaijani forces and Armenian or ethnic Armenian separatist forces firing weapons on residential areas and damaging civilian infrastructure with artillery, missiles, and cluster munitions. Such attacks resulted in significant civilian casualties.
Azerbaijani armed forces allegedly used heavy artillery missiles, combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and aerial bombs, as well as cluster munitions, hitting civilians and civilian facilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani government denied the accusations that the military shelled civilian structures. For example, on October 3 and December 11, Human Rights Watch criticized Azerbaijan’s armed forces for repeatedly using weapons on residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh. On October 5, Amnesty International crisis response experts corroborated the authenticity of video footage–consistent with the use of cluster
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munitions–from the city of Stepanakert that was published in early October and identified Israeli-made cluster munitions that appeared to have been fired by Azerbaijani armed forces. The Hazardous Area Life-support Organization (HALO) Trust, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) working in Nagorno-Karabakh to clear unexploded ordnance, confirmed the use of cluster munitions in operations striking civilian infrastructure in Nagorno-Karabakh during intensive fighting in the fall.
On November 2, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized continuing attacks in populated areas in and around the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict zone. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet noted that “homes have been destroyed, streets reduced to rubble, and people forced to flee or seek safety in basements.”
The Azerbaijani government reported 98 civilians killed and more than 400 wounded during the fighting. Armenian authorities reported 75 ethnic Armenian civilians were killed and 167 were wounded during the fighting.
There also was an outbreak of violence–including the exchange of fire using heavy weaponry and deployment of drones–at the international border between Azerbaijan and Armenia from July 12 to July 16. Recurrent shooting along the Line of Contact caused civilian deaths.
b. Disappearance
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) processed cases of persons missing in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and worked with the government to develop a consolidated list of missing persons. According to the ICRC, approximately 4,500 Azerbaijanis and Armenians remained unaccounted for as a result of the conflict in the 1990s. The State Committee on the Captive and Missing reported that, as of December 1, there were 3,890 citizens registered as missing as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting in the 1990s. Of these, 719 were civilians. On December 15, the ICRC reported it had received thousands of calls and visits from families of individuals missing and received hundreds of tracing requests for civilians and soldiers connected with the fall fighting.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
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While the constitution and criminal code prohibit such practices and provide for penalties for conviction of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, credible allegations of torture and other abuse continued. Most mistreatment took place while detainees were in police custody, where authorities reportedly used abusive methods to coerce confessions and denied detainees access to family, independent lawyers, or independent medical care. There also were credible reports that Azerbaijani and Armenian forces abused soldiers and civilians held in custody.
During the year the government took no action in response to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) reports on six visits it conducted to the country between 2004 and 2017. In the reports the CPT stated that torture and other forms of physical mistreatment by police and other law enforcement agencies, corruption in the entire law enforcement system, and impunity remained systemic and endemic.
There were several credible reports of torture during the year.
For example, human right defenders reported that on April 28, Popular Front Party member Niyamaddin Ahmadov was taken from the Detention Center for Administrative Detainees and driven to an unknown location with a bag over his head, where he was beaten and physically tortured in an effort to obtain an allegedly false confession concerning illegal financing of the party. There were also reports that he was subsequently beaten in Baku Detention Center No.1, where he was moved after the government opened a criminal case against him.
Human rights defenders reported the alleged torture of Popular Front Party members Fuad Gahramanli, Seymur Ahmadov, Ayaz Maharramli, Ramid Naghiyev, and Baba Suleyman, who were arrested after a major rally the night of July 14-15 in support of the army following intensive fighting on the Azerbaijan- Armenia border (also see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). The detainees’ location remained unknown for days, and they were deprived of access to lawyers and family members. Throughout their detention, friends, relatives, and lawyers were not allowed to visit for an extended period. The independent Turan News Agency reported that Gahramanli was “severely tortured” in Baku Detention Center No.1 after his arrest. Gahramanli reportedly refused the services of his independent lawyer after being forced to do so by government authorities. He was deprived of the right to call or meet with his family for months with the exception of one short call to his brother 10 days after his detention, when he informed him
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AZERBAIJAN 6 that he was alive. The call followed social media allegations that Gahramanli had
died after being tortured in custody.
There were developments in the 2017 government arrest of more than 100 citizens in Terter who were alleged to have committed treason by engaging in espionage for Armenia. Family members and civil society activists reported that the government had tortured the accused in an effort to coerce their confessions, as a result of which up to nine detainees reportedly died. According to the independent Turan News Agency, four of the deceased were acquitted posthumously and investigators who had fabricated the charges against them were prosecuted, convicted, and received prison sentences of up to seven years. Following a closed trial of 25 individuals, at least nine remained in prison, some serving sentences of up to 20 years. On September 14, relatives of those killed or imprisoned in the case attempted to hold a protest at the Presidential Administration. They called for the release of those incarcerated, posthumous rehabilitation of those who died after being tortured, and accountability for those responsible.
There were numerous credible reports of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in custody. For example, activist Fuad Ismayilov reported that on March 7, he was beaten in Police Department No. 32 of Surakhani District. Relatives reported that on June 21, he was also beaten by police officers in the Detention Center for Administrative Detainees.
Media outlets reported the mistreatment of imprisoned Muslim Unity Movement deputy Abbas Huseynov. Huseynov conducted a hunger strike of approximately three weeks to protest the ban on family-provided food parcels because of quarantine rules, as well as the high prices for food in the prison market. In response prison officials barred Huseynov from bathing or communicating with family. The prison administration also placed him in solitary confinement.
On June 8, police used excessive force while conducting an early morning raid in a residential building in Baku. A day earlier, building residents had thrown garbage at police officers while they were detaining a neighbor for violating the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine regime. During the operation police also treated some detainees in a humiliating manner by not allowing them to dress properly before removing them from their homes. On June 9, Karim Suleymanli, one of those detained, stated that police had beaten him for five hours while he was in custody. On June 10, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that Suleymanli’s lawyer stated Suleymanli had obtained a medical report declaring that he had been severely beaten. According to Suleymanli, all 11 detained
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individuals were beaten in Police Department No. 29. Courts later sentenced them to administrative detention for periods of from 10 to 30 days. On June 9, Suleymanli’s sentence was postponed, and he was released because of his health condition. On June 16, the Baku Court of Appeal replaced his previous 15-day administrative detention with a fine. Following the event the Ministry of Internal Affairs dismissed one police officer for publicly insulting a local resident.
Authorities reportedly maintained an implicit ban on independent forensic examinations of detainees who claimed abuse and delayed access to an attorney. Opposition figures and other activists stated these practices made it easier for officers to mistreat detainees with impunity.
There were credible allegations that authorities forcibly committed opposition Popular Front Party member Agil Humbatov to a psychiatric hospital in Baku twice after he criticized the government. Human rights NGOs reported he was institutionalized on March 31 after posting a social media message criticizing the country’s leadership on March 30. On April 1, he reportedly was released; however, on April 2, he was reinstitutionalized after posting a message complaining authorities had forcibly placed him in the psychiatric hospital due to his political views. On July 1, he was released.
There were credible reports that Azerbaijani forces abused soldiers and civilians in their custody (see the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020 for Armenia). For example, on December 2, Human Rights Watch reported that Azerbaijani forces inhumanly treated numerous ethnic Armenian soldiers captured in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to the report, Azerbaijani forces subjected the detainees to physical abuse and humiliation in actions that were captured on videos and widely circulated on social media. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify the locations and times but was confident that none of the videos was posted before October-November.
Human Rights Watch closely examined 14 such cases and spoke with the families of five detainees whose abuse was depicted. According to one family’s account, on October 2, the parents of a youth named Areg (age 19) lost contact with him. On October 8, a relative alerted the family to two videos that showed Areg lying on top of an Azerbaijani tank and then sitting on the same tank and, on his captor’s orders, shouting, “Azerbaijan” and calling the Armenian prime minister insulting names. In mid-October according to the Human Rights Watch report, three more videos with the same person appeared on social media. One showed Areg, apparently in the back seat of a vehicle wearing a flowery smock and a thick black
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AZERBAIJAN 8 blindfold, repeating on his captors’ orders, “long live President Aliyev” and
“Karabakh is Azerbaijan” and also cursing Armenia’s leader.
On December 10, an Amnesty International report authenticated 22 of the dozens of videos circulating on social media, which included–among other abuses–the mistreatment of Armenian prisoners and other captives (see the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020 for Armenia). According to Amnesty International, seven of the videos showed what it termed “violations” by “Azerbaijani forces.” According to the report, in some videos, Azerbaijani soldiers kicked and beat bound and blindfolded ethnic Armenian prisoners and forced them to make statements opposing their government.
As of year’s end, authorities had arrested four soldiers for desecrating bodies and grave sites.
According to Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijani armed forces reportedly used artillery missiles, aerial bombs, and cluster munitions, against Stepanakert and struck civilian infrastructure. According to the Armenian government and Armenian media reports, a diverse range of nonmilitary sites was hit, including medical emergency service centers and ambulances, food stocks, crops, livestock, electricity and gas plants, and drinking-water installations and supplies, as well as schools and preschools. According to the BBC, many homes in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest city, were left without electricity or water. The Azerbaijani government denied these accusations.
According to various international observers, Azerbaijani armed forces on multiple occasions struck near humanitarian organizations, such as the ICRC and HALO Trust, located in Stepanakert. On October 2, the Azerbaijani armed forces struck the emergency service administrative building in Stepanakert, wounding nine personnel and killing one. On October 14, three aircraft reportedly dropped bombs on the military hospital in Martakert, damaging the hospital and destroying nearby medical vehicles, all clearly marked as medical. On October 28, more than 15 strikes hit various areas of Stepanakert and Shusha. An Azerbaijani missile hit rescue personnel conducting humanitarian functions in Shusha, killing one person and seriously injuring five. Another missile, reportedly a high-precision, Long Range Attack (LORA) missile struck a Stepanakert hospital maternity ward. Unexploded missiles were later found inside the hospital. On November 2, an Azerbaijani UAV destroyed a fire truck transporting fresh water to civilians in the Askeran region.
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AZERBAIJAN 9 Prison and Detention Center Conditions
According to prison monitoring conducted by a reputable organization prior to the onset of COVID-19, prison conditions reportedly were sometimes harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding; inadequate nutrition; deficient heating, ventilation, and sanitation; and poor medical care. Detainees also complained of inhuman conditions in the crowded basement detention facilities of local courts where they were held while awaiting their hearings. There was no reporting or evidence that conditions improved during the year.
Physical Conditions: Authorities held men and women together in pretrial detention facilities in separate blocks, and held women in separate prison facilities after sentencing. Local NGO observers reported female prisoners typically lived in better conditions, were monitored more frequently, and had greater access to training and other activities. The same NGOs noted, however, that women’s prisons suffered from many of the same problems as prisons for men. The law allows convicted juvenile offenders to be held in juvenile institutions until they reach age 20.
While the government continued to construct prison facilities, some operating Soviet-era facilities continued to fail to meet international standards. Gobustan Prison, Prison No. 3, Prison No. 14, and the penitentiary tuberculosis treatment center reportedly had the worst conditions.
Human rights advocates reported guards sometimes punished prisoners with beatings or by placing them in solitary confinement. Local and international monitors reported markedly poorer conditions at the maximum-security Gobustan Prison.
Prisoners claimed they endured lengthy confinement periods without opportunity for physical exercise. They also reported instances of cramped, overcrowded conditions; inadequate ventilation; poor sanitary facilities; inedible food; and insufficient access to medical care. Former prisoners and family members of imprisoned activists reported prisoners often had to pay bribes to meet visiting family members, watch television, use toilets or shower rooms, or receive food from outside the detention facility. Although the law permits detainees to receive daily packages of food to supplement officially provided food, authorities at times reportedly restricted access of prisoners and detainees to family-provided food parcels. Some prisons and detention centers did not provide access to potable water.
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Administration: While most prisoners reported they could submit complaints to judicial authorities and the Ombudsman’s Office without censorship, prison authorities regularly read prisoners’ correspondence, monitored meetings between lawyers and clients, and restricted some lawyers from taking documents into and out of detention facilities. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that it conducted systematic visits and investigations into complaints, but activists claimed the office regularly dismissed prisoner complaints in politically sensitive cases.
Authorities limited visits by attorneys and family members, especially to prisoners widely considered to be incarcerated for political reasons. For example, family members of political activists detained after the July 14-15 proarmy rally in Baku stated that authorities illegally prohibited communication with their relatives for the first several weeks of their detention.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some prison visits by international and local organizations, including the ICRC and CPT.
Authorities generally permitted the ICRC access to prisoners of war and civilian internees held in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The ICRC conducted regular visits throughout the year to provide for protection of prisoners under international humanitarian law and regularly facilitated the exchange of messages between prisoners and their families to help them re-establish and maintain contact.
A human rights community prison-monitoring group, known as the Public Committee, was allowed access to prisons without prior notification to the Penitentiary Service.
Improvements: The Ministry of Justice reported that more than 2500 Azerbaijanis avoided incarceration during the year with the use of GPS-enabled electronic bracelets.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, the government generally did not observe these requirements.
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NGOs reported the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service detained individuals who exercised their rights to fundamental freedoms. Several citizens reported they had been summoned to police departments for their posts on social media critical of the government’s response to COVID-19, and many were forced to delete their posts. For example, media outlets reported that Facebook- user Rahim Khoyski was called to a police department for making recommendations to the government on his social media account to freeze debts and loans, to stop collecting taxes from entrepreneurs, and to provide monetary assistance to citizens who had lost their income. Police warned him not to make such recommendations and ordered him to delete his post.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
The law provides that persons detained, arrested, or accused of a crime be accorded due process, including being advised immediately of their rights and the reason for their arrest. In all cases deemed to be politically motivated, due process was not respected, and accused individuals were convicted under a variety of spurious criminal charges.
According to the law, detainees must appear before a judge within 48 hours of arrest, and the judge may issue a warrant either placing the detainee in pretrial detention or under house arrest, or releasing the detainee. At times, however, authorities detained individuals for longer than 48 hours without warrants. The initial 48-hour arrest period may be extended to 96 hours under extenuating circumstances. During pretrial detention or house arrest, the Prosecutor General’s Office must complete its investigation. Pretrial detention is limited to three months but may be extended by a judge up to 18 months, depending on the alleged crime and the needs of the investigation. There were reports of detainees not being informed promptly of the charges against them during the year.
A formal bail system existed, but judges did not utilize it during the year.
The law provides for access to a lawyer from the time of detention, but there were reports that authorities frequently denied lawyers’ access to clients in both politically motivated and routine cases. Human rights defenders stated that many of the political activists detained after the July 14-15 rally were denied access to effective legal representation and were forced to rely on state-appointed lawyers who did not adequately defend their clients due to fear of government reprisal.
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Access to counsel was poor, particularly outside of Baku. Although entitled to legal counsel by law, indigent detainees often did not have such access. The Collegium of Advocates, however, undertook several initiatives to expand legal representation outside the capital, including the establishment of offices in regional Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network centers to provide legal services to local citizens.
By law detained individuals have the right to contact relatives and have a confidential meeting with their lawyers immediately following detention. Prisoners’ family members reported that authorities occasionally restricted visits, especially to persons in pretrial detention, and withheld information regarding detainees. Days sometimes passed before families could obtain information regarding detained relatives. Authorities reportedly used family members as leverage to put pressure on selected individuals to stop them from reporting police abuse. Family members of some political activists detained after the July 14-15 rally stated that authorities illegally prohibited communication with their relatives for several weeks to limit the dissemination of information and to hide traces of torture.
Azerbaijani and Armenian officials alleged that soldiers on both sides remained detained following intensive fighting in the fall (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.). As of year’s end, two exchanges resulted in the return of 57 ethnic Armenian detainees and 14 Azerbaijani detainees. ICRC representatives visited a number of the detainees and continued to work with the sides to develop accurate lists and encourage the exchange of any remaining detainees.
Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities often made arrests based on spurious charges, such as resisting police, illegal possession of drugs or weapons, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of authority, or inciting public disorder. Local organizations and international NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized the government for arresting individuals exercising their fundamental rights and noted that authorities frequently fabricated charges against them.
For example, police regularly detained opposition and other activists mainly on the charges of “violating the quarantine regime,” “resisting police,” or “petty hooliganism,” and subsequently took them to local courts where judges sentenced them to periods of administrative detention ranging from 10 to 30 days. Those charged with criminal offenses were sentenced to lengthier periods of incarceration (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). Human rights defenders
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asserted these arrests were one method authorities used to intimidate activists and dissuade others from engaging in activism. For example, 16 members of the opposition Popular Front Party were arrested and sentenced to administrative detention under such charges from mid-March to mid-May. More than 15 Popular Front Party members were sentenced to administrative detention after the July 14- 15 proarmy rally in Baku.
Pretrial Detention: Authorities held persons in pretrial detention for up to 18 months, the maximum allowed by law. The Prosecutor General’s Office routinely extended the initial three-month pretrial detention period permitted by law in successive increments of several months until the government completed an investigation.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides that persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis, length, or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. The judiciary, however, did not rule independently in such cases, and while sentences were occasionally reduced, the outcomes often appeared predetermined.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, judges were not functionally independent of the executive branch. While the government made a number of judicial reforms in 2019, the reforms did not foster judicial independence. The judiciary remained largely corrupt and inefficient. Many verdicts were legally unsupportable and largely unrelated to the evidence presented during a trial, with outcomes frequently appearing predetermined. For example, following the July 14-15 proarmy rally, judges sentenced Popular Front Party board members Fuad Gahramanli, Mammad Ibrahim, Bakhtiyar Imanov, and Ayaz Maharramli from three to four months of pretrial detention, although these political activists did not take part in the rally (see section 1.c.). Courts often failed to investigate allegations of torture and inhuman treatment of detainees in police custody.
The Ministry of Justice controlled the Judicial Legal Council, which appoints the judicial selection committee that administers the judicial selection process and examination and oversees long-term judicial training. The council consists of six
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AZERBAIJAN 14 judges, a prosecutor, a lawyer, a council representative, a Ministry of Justice
representative, and a legal scholar.
Credible reports indicated that judges and prosecutors took instructions from the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of Justice, particularly in politically sensitive cases. There were also credible allegations that judges routinely accepted bribes.
In April 2019 President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree promulgating limited judicial sector reforms. The decree called for an increase in the salary of judges, an increase in the number of judicial positions (from 600 to 800), audio recordings of all court proceedings, and establishment of specialized commercial courts for entrepreneurship disputes. The decree also ordered increased funding for pro bono legal aid. Some measures called for in the decree, such as the establishment of commercial courts and a raise in judicial salaries, were implemented, while others remained pending at year’s end.
Trial Procedures
The law requires public trials except in cases involving state, commercial, or professional secrets or confidential, personal, or family matters. The law mandates the presumption of innocence in criminal cases. It also mandates the right of defendants to be informed promptly of charges; to a fair, timely, and public trial; to be present at the trial; to communicate with an attorney of choice (or have one provided at public expense if unable to pay); to provide adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals; to confront witnesses and present witnesses’ evidence at trial; and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Both defendants and prosecutors have the right to appeal. Authorities did not respect these provisions in many cases that were widely considered to be politically motivated. Information regarding trial times and locations was generally available. Due to COVID-19 restrictions for most of the year, courts allowed only a small number of individuals to attend hearings, limiting public access to trials.
Although the constitution prescribes equal status for prosecutors and defense attorneys, judges often favored prosecutors when assessing motions, oral statements, and evidence submitted by defense counsel, without regard to the merits of their respective arguments. Members of opposition parties and civil society activists were consistently denied counsel of their choice for days, while government-appointed lawyers represented them, but not in their interest. For
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example, during the trial of opposition figure Tofig Yagublu, which continued from July 24 until September 3, the judge reportedly did not conduct an unbiased review of the case and repeatedly denied the motions of Yagublu’s lawyers. The judge denied the defendant’s requests for additional information relevant to the case and declined to consider misconduct by law enforcement authorities. For example, the judge did not satisfy a motion by Yagublu’s lawyers to allow data from telecommunications companies. Additionally, police confiscated Yagublu’s cell phone and deleted video footage he had taken during the alleged incident. The judge refused Yagublu’s lawyers’ motions to restore those videos. Judges also reserved the right to remove defense lawyers in civil cases for “good cause.” In criminal proceedings, judges may remove defense lawyers because of a conflict of interest or upon a defendant’s request for a change of counsel.
By law only members of the Collegium of Advocates (bar association) are able to represent citizens in any legal process, whether criminal, civil, or administrative. Representatives of the legal community and NGOs criticized the law, asserting it restricted citizens’ access to legal representation and empowered the government- dominated bar association to prevent human rights lawyers from representing individuals in politically motivated cases by limiting the number of lawyers in good standing who were willing to represent such individuals.
In February, three NGOs reported that, as a result of various punitive measures, more than 24 attorneys had been deprived of the opportunity to practice their profession since 2005. The number of defense lawyers willing and able to accept politically sensitive cases remained small due to various measures taken by authorities, including by the Collegium of Advocates. Such measures included disciplinary proceedings resulting in the censure, suspension, and in some cases disbarment of human rights lawyers. In November 2019 the Collegium suspended the license and initiated disbarment proceedings against lawyer Shahla Humbatova for reasons widely considered to be politically motivated.
In some cases the Collegium of Advocates dropped politically motivated proceedings against lawyers, such as in August those against Zibeyda Sadigova and Bahruz Bayramov. In other cases, however, after dropping proceedings against a lawyer, the Collegium engaged in other punitive measures against the same lawyer. For example, after dropping administrative proceedings against Elchin Sadigov in January, the Collegium issued him a warning and, on September 25, deprived him of the right to continue working as an independent lawyer. Only independent lawyers may represent a client immediately. Those such as Sadigov, deprived of this independent status, are required first to obtain permission to
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represent a client through a government-approved law firm, which often took days. During this time government-appointed lawyers represented clients and could take action without the approval of or consultation with their clients.
The Collegium issued two other warnings to lawyers during the year: on June 11, to Javad Javadov for sharing information concerning the alleged mistreatment of his client, Kerim Suleymanli, by police (see section 1.c.), and on July 13, to Nemat Karimli for publicly sharing information concerning the alleged October 2019 torture of Tofig Yagublu without waiting for the results of the official investigation.
The majority of the country’s human rights defense lawyers were based in Baku. This continued to make it difficult for individuals living outside of Baku to receive timely and quality legal services, since local lawyers were unwilling or unable to take on such cases.
During the year the Collegium increased its membership from 1,708 to 1,791. Human rights defenders asserted the new members were hesitant to work on human rights-related cases due to fear they would be sanctioned by the Collegium. Some activists and candidate lawyers stated the examination process was biased and that examiners failed candidates who had previously been active in civil society on various pretexts.
In some instances courts rejected the admission of legal evidence. For example, on February 21, the Baku Court of Appeal ruled that video recordings presented by National Assembly candidate Bakhtiyar Hajiyev in support of his election complaint were inadmissible because they were recorded without the permission of the precinct election commissions responsible for conducting the elections in his district. On February 26, the Supreme Court upheld this verdict.
Although the constitution prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence, some defendants claimed that police and other authorities obtained testimony through torture or abuse. Human rights monitors also reported courts did not investigate allegations of abuse, and there was no independent forensic investigator to substantiate assertions of abuse.
Investigations often focused on obtaining confessions rather than gathering physical evidence against suspects. Serious crimes brought before the courts frequently ended in conviction, since judges generally sought only a minimal level of proof and collaborated closely with prosecutors.
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Human rights advocates reported courts sometimes failed to provide interpreters despite the constitutional right of an accused person to interpretation. Defendants are entitled to contract interpreters during hearings, with expenses covered by the state budget.
There were no verbatim transcripts of judicial proceedings. Although some of the newer courts in Baku made audio recordings of some proceedings, courts generally did not record most court testimonies, oral arguments, and judicial decisions. Instead, the court recording officer generally decided the content of notes, which tended to be sparse. A provision of an April 2019 presidential decree addressed the problem but had not been implemented by year’s end.
The country has a military court system with civilian judges. The Military Court retains original jurisdiction over any case related to war or military service.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
NGO estimates of political prisoners and detainees at year’s end ranged from at least 90 to 146. Political prisoners and detainees included journalists and bloggers (see section 2.a.), political and social activists (see section 3), religious activists (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report), individuals arrested in connection with the Ganja and Terter cases (see section 1.c.), and the relative of a journalist/activist in exile (see section 1.f.).
In a particularly high profile case, on March 22, a member of the Coordination Center of National Council of Democratic Forces and the Musavat Party, Tofig Yagublu, was arrested and ordered held for three months in pretrial detention for “hooliganism” in connection with a car accident. Human rights defenders considered the arrest a staged provocation against Yagublu. On September 3, the Nizami District Court convicted Yagublu and sentenced him to four years and three months in prison. On September 18, the Baku Court of Appeal released Yagublu to house arrest after he was on a hunger strike for 17 days. At year’s end Yagublu was awaiting a ruling on his appeal.
In another case, on April 16, Popular Front Party activist Niyamaddin Ahmadov was detained and sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention. After serving his administrative sentence, on May 18, he was sentenced to four months’ pretrial detention, allegedly on the criminal charge of funding terrorism. Human rights
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detention at year’s end.
From July 14-15, during a spontaneous rally of more than 20,000 persons supporting the army during fighting along the border with Armenia, a group entered the National Assembly and reportedly caused minor damage before being removed. Some protesters allegedly clashed with police and damaged police cars. On July 16, President Aliyev accused the Popular Front Party of instigating protesters to enter the National Assembly and stated law enforcement bodies would investigate the party.
Human rights defenders reported that authorities used these events to justify the arrest of political activists, including those who did not attend the rally. Law enforcement officials opened criminal cases against at least 16 members of the Popular Front Party, one member of the opposition Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Movement, and two members of the Muslim Unity Movement. The formal charges against the remaining individuals included damaging property, violating public order, and using force against a government official. In addition Popular Front Party activists Fuad Gahramanli and Mammad Ibrahim were accused of trying to seize power by force in an alleged attempted coup. Popular Front Party member Mahammad Imanli, along with Mammad Ibrahim’s son and ruling party member Mehdi Ibrahimov, were also accused of spreading COVID-19 during the demonstration, which included thousands of demonstrators who were not wearing masks.
On August 19, the Khatai District Court released Mehdi Ibrahimov, placing him under house arrest. On November 16, the Sabayil District Court released 21 individuals arrested after the July 14-15 rally, placing them under house arrest. These individuals included 12 members of the Popular Front Party and two members of the Muslim Unity Movement. On December 7, the remaining 15 individuals arrested after the July 14-15 rally, including three Popular Front Party activists and a member of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Movement, were released and placed under house arrest. On December 1, the Sabunchu District Court convicted and sentenced Mahammad Imanli to one year in prison.
There were developments during the year in long-standing cases of persons considered to have been incarcerated on politically motivated grounds. On April 23, the Plenum of the Supreme Court acquitted opposition Republican Alternative (REAL) party chairperson Ilgar Mammadov and human rights defender Rasul Jafarov. As a result Mammadov and Jafarov no longer faced restrictions based on
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their criminal records, including restrictions on seeking political office. The court ruled the government must pay 234,000 manat ($138,000) in compensation to Mammadov and 57,400 manat ($33,900) to Jafarov for moral damages, and both could seek additional compensation in civil court. The government paid these compensations to Mammadov and Jafarov. In 2014 the ECHR ruled that Mammadov’s arrest and detention were politically motivated. In 2017 the ECHR ruled that Mammadov had been denied a fair trial. Six others considered to be former political prisoners whose acquittal was ordered by the ECHR were waiting court decisions at year’s end.
On March 17, after serving three years of his six-year prison term, authorities released investigative journalist Afghan Mukhtarli under the condition that he leave the country and relocate to Germany immediately after his release. He remained in Germany at year’s end (also see Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020 for Georgia).
Political prisoners and detainees faced varied restrictions. Former political prisoners stated prison officials limited access to reading materials and communication with their families. Authorities provided international humanitarian organizations access to political prisoners and detainees.
Politically Motivated Reprisal against Individuals Located Outside the Country
There were reports of government abuse of international law enforcement tools, such as those of Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization), in attempts to detain foreign residents who were activists. There also were reports that the government targeted dissidents and journalists who lived outside of the country through kidnappings, digital harassment, and intimidation of family members who remained in the country.
In January authorities in Gdansk, Poland, detained Dashgyn Agalarli, an Azerbaijani national with refugee status in Norway, reportedly due to an Interpol notice submitted by the Azerbaijan government. He was held for three days and then released on bail. According to news reports in September, however, he remained in Poland and was unable to leave the country.
In December 2019 the State Migration Service reported that political emigrant and government critic Elvin Isayev was deported to Azerbaijan from Ukraine and arrested upon arrival. According to RFE/RL, Ukraine’s State Migration Service
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and Prosecutor General’s Office denied having ordered his deportation. Isayev was charged with incitement to riot and for open calls for action against the state. On September 8, the Prosecutor General’s Office alleged that seven other political emigrants residing in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Switzerland participated in these criminal acts, together with Isayev. On the basis of the Prosecutor General’s Office’s petition, the Nasimi District Court ordered the arrest of all seven emigrants. The emigrants subject to this order included Ordukhan Babirov, Tural Sadigli, Gurban Mammadov, Orkhan Agayev, Rafael Piriyev, Ali Hasanaliyev, and Suleyman Suleymanli. The Prosecutor General’s Office stated that it requested an international search for these individuals from Interpol. On October 30, the Baku Court on Grave Crimes convicted and sentenced Elvin Isayev to eight years in prison.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Citizens have the right to file lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. All citizens have the right to appeal to the ECHR within six months of exhausting all domestic legal options, including an appeal to and ruling by the Supreme Court.
Citizens exercised the right to appeal local court rulings to the ECHR and brought claims of government violations of commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights. The government’s compliance with ECHR decisions was mixed; activists stated the government generally paid compensation but failed to release prisoners in response to ECHR decisions. In some cases considered to be politically motivated, the government withheld compensation ordered by the ECHR. For example, on May 7, journalist and former political prisoner Khadija Ismayilova told media that the government owed her 44,500 euros ($53,400) in total based on decisions of the ECHR (see section 4).
Property Restitution
NGOs reported authorities did not respect the laws governing eminent domain and expropriation of property. Homeowners often reported receiving compensation well below market value for expropriated property and had little legal recourse. NGOs also reported many citizens did not trust the court system and were therefore reluctant to pursue compensation claims.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
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The law prohibits arbitrary invasions of privacy and monitoring of correspondence and other private communications. The government generally did not respect these legal prohibitions.
While the constitution allows for searches of residences only with a court order or in cases specifically provided for by law, authorities often conducted searches without warrants. It was widely reported that the State Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs monitored telephone and internet communications (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom), particularly those of foreigners, prominent youth active online, some political and business figures, and persons engaged in international communication. Human rights lawyers asserted that the postal service purposely lost or misplaced communications with the ECHR to inhibit proceedings against the government.
Throughout the year some websites and social media sources leaked videos of virtual meetings and recorded conversations of opposition figures. It was widely believed that government law enforcement or intelligence services were the source of the leaked videos.
In an effort to intimidate and embarrass an activist and member of the local municipal council who advocated more transparent governance, local authorities hung photographs of Vafa Nagi in her swimsuit with the caption “Lady Gaga” throughout her village (see section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups).
Police continued to intimidate, harass, and sometimes incarcerate family members of suspected criminals, independent journalists, activists, and political opposition members and leaders, as well as employees and leaders of certain NGOs. For example, human rights defenders considered Emin Sagiyev to have been incarcerated due to the activities of his brother-in-law, exiled journalist Turkel Azerturk.
There were reports authorities fired individuals from jobs or had individuals fired in retaliation for the political or civic activities of family members inside or outside the country.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
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While the law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and specifically prohibits press censorship, the government habitually violated these rights. The government limited freedom of expression and media independence. Journalists faced intimidation and at times were beaten and imprisoned. During the year authorities continued to pressure media and journalists in the country and in exile, including their relatives.
Freedom of Speech: Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression, the government continued to repress persons it considered political opponents or critics. The incarceration of such persons raised concerns regarding authorities’ abuse of the judicial system to punish dissent. Human rights defenders considered five journalists and bloggers to be political prisoners or detainees as of year’s end. A number of incarcerations were widely seen as connected to the exercise of freedom of expression. For example, on November 16, Polad Aslanov, the editor in chief of the Xeberman.com and Press-az.com news websites, was convicted of alleged espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Human rights defenders asserted the case was a reprisal for Aslanov’s public assertion that the State Security Service demanded bribes from Azerbaijani pilgrims seeking to travel to Iran.
The constitution prohibits hate speech, defined as “propaganda provoking racial, national, religious, and social discord and animosity” as well as “hostility and other criteria.”
In addition to imprisonment, the government attempted to impede criticism through other measures, including placing activists in administrative detention for social media posts critical of the government. For example, on April 22, the Surakhani District Court sentenced Popular Front Party activist Arif Babayev to 10 days of administrative detention for dissemination of prohibited information on the internet. Authorities also continued attempts to impede criticism by reprimanding lawyers to intimidate them from speaking with media, as the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, noted in July 2019.
During the period of martial law from September 28 to December 12, which the government declared following the outbreak of hostilities on September 27, the government reportedly imposed restrictions on the work of some local and international journalists in the area of the conflict.
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Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Throughout the year government-owned and progovernment outlets continued to dominate broadcast and print media. A limited number of independent online media outlets expressed a wide variety of views on government policies, but authorities pressured them in various ways for doing so. In 2019 the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) Media Sustainability Index noted that “access to independent news sources in Azerbaijan gets more limited from year to year” and concluded that “there is no independent print media in the country.”
Authorities continued exerting pressure on leading media rights organizations and independent media outlets outside the country as well as individuals associated with them in the country. Foreign media outlets, including Voice of America, RFE/RL, and the BBC, remained prohibited from broadcasting on FM radio frequencies, although the Russian service Sputnik, which was also originally prohibited from broadcasting, was subsequently allowed to broadcast news on a local radio network.
Violence and Harassment: During the year police occasionally used force against journalists, as well as other methods, to prevent their professional activities. On February 12, for example, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of media, Harlem Desir, issued a statement deploring the previous night’s detentions, violent incidents, and mistreatment of at least eight journalists covering an election-related protest in Baku.
Local observers reported that journalists from independent media outlets were subjected to harassment and cyberattacks during the year. The harassment mainly targeted journalists from Radio Liberty, Azadliq and other newspapers, Meydan TV, and Obyektiv Television.
Civil society activists continued to call on the government to investigate effectively the high-profile killings of journalists Rasim Aliyev in 2015, Rafiq Tagi in 2011, and Elmar Huseynov in 2005.
Lawsuits believed to be politically motivated were also used to intimidate journalists and media outlets. On June 19, the Khatai District Court convicted of alleged hooliganism and sentenced Azadliq journalist Tazakhan Miralamli to limitation of liberty for one year. As a result he was required to wear an electronic bracelet and was prohibited from leaving his home from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day. Miralamli and activists asserted the aim of the sentence was to limit his journalistic activities.
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Most locally based media outlets relied on the patronage of individuals close to the government or the State Media Fund for income. Those not benefitting from such support experienced financial difficulties, such as problems paying wages, taxes, and periodic court fines.
During the intensive fighting in the fall, there were credible reports of violence against journalists by Azerbaijani forces. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), on October 27, a group of reporters wearing bulletproof vests clearly marked with the word “Press” were targeted when leaving a town 20 miles east of Stepanakert. Tom Mutch, a freelancer from New Zealand working for the United Kingdom’s Byline Times news website, Chuck Holton, a war correspondent with Christian Broadcasting Network, and an American crew sent by the Armenian online news site Civilnet.am told the RSF that although they were in cars marked “PRESS” and there were no military objectives in the area, they were deliberately targeted after being spotted by drones.
On October 8, an Azerbaijani military aircraft bombed the Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral in Shusha. Several hours after the initial bombing, as journalists were reporting live from the site on the damage to the cathedral, the cathedral was bombed a second time, with precision-guided munitions, gravely injuring three of the journalists present. Multiple international observers confirmed that there were no military targets in the vicinity of the cathedral.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Most media outlets practiced self-censorship and avoided topics considered politically sensitive due to fear of government retaliation. The National Radio and Television Council continued to require that local, privately owned television and radio stations not rebroadcast complete news programs of foreign origin.
Libel/Slander Laws: Libel and slander are criminal offenses. The law provides for substantial fines and up to three years’ imprisonment for persons convicted of libel or slander. Conviction of insulting the president is punishable by up to two years’ corrective labor or up to three years’ imprisonment.
Internet Freedom
During the year reports continued that the government restricted or disrupted online access. During a period of martial law from September 27 to December 12 that the government imposed following the outbreak of violence, authorities
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blocked access to some websites and social networks. Internet blockages occurred from the beginning of the violence until November 14. Blockages included social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram and impeded the functioning of many virtual private networks (VPNs). Throughout the year authorities continued to block independent media websites that offered views differing from government narratives and to incarcerate persons who expressed critical views online. Human rights defenders also reported that individuals were regularly summoned to police stations across the country, forced to delete social media posts that were critical of the government, and threatened with various punishments if they did not comply. On multiple occasions the government selectively cut or degraded internet access during political protests.
The IREX Media Sustainability Index for 2019–the most recent year for which the index was available–reported that in 2018 the number of websites blocked for some period of time reached 85, compared with 25 in 2017. The websites of the Voice of America, RFE/RL, and Azerbaijani media outlets, including Azadliq, Bastainfo.com, Criminal.az, Topxeber.az, Fia.az, Monitortv.info, Xural.com, Az24saat.org, Anaxaber.az, and Arqument.az, and the Germany-based media outlet Meydan TV remained blocked by authorities during the year.
On March 19, the Plenum of the Supreme Court reviewed a request by the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technologies to block alternate means of accessing media banned in the country (through VPNs and secondary transmission of content through sites such as YouTube), including Meydan TV, Radio Azadlig, Azadlig newspaper, Turan TV, and Azerbaijan Saati, and forwarded it for consideration of the Baku Court of Appeal. A decision on the request was pending. Activists asserted that authorities conducted cyberattacks and used other measures and proxies to disrupt internet television programs.
On April 13, authorities cut the internet and telephone connections of Popular Front Party chairperson Ali Kerimli and his spouse. Their telephone connections were restored, although overnight disruptions continued throughout the year. As of December 31, Kerimli and his spouse remained unable to access the internet. On June 23, the Nasimi District Court refused to review a lawsuit Kerimli and his spouse filed challenging the government’s denial of access to the internet and telephone communications.
From May 15 through the morning of May 19, the news websites Turan.az and its affiliate Contact.az experienced a massive cyberattack and were blocked twice.
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government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 24, Germany-based independent media outlet Meydan TV experienced a cyberattack that resulted in the deletion of all its Facebook posts since 2018 as well as two months of its content from Instagram.
On November 3, a Baku Court convicted journalist and chief editor of the online publication Azel.TV, Afgan Sadigov, of alleged extortion and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment. Human rights defenders considered the case to be politically motivated, as Sadigov had criticized officials in his social media posts and was previously convicted for his journalism activities. Sadigov went on a hunger strike while in prison to protest the conviction.
The government requires internet service providers to be licensed and to have formal agreements with the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technologies. The law imposes criminal penalties for conviction of libel and slander on the internet, which had a further chilling effect on open and free use of the medium.
There were strong indications the government monitored the internet communications of civil society activists. For example, activists reported being harassed by police and forced to delete critical Facebook posts under threat of physical abuse. During the year activists were questioned, detained, and frequently sentenced to administrative detention for posting criticism of government actions and commenting on human rights abuses online. On January 14, Azerbaijan Internet Watch reported phishing attacks against several civil society figures and an online news platform. The attack sought to disable antivirus software and surreptitiously record key strokes. Based on forensic research, Azerbaijan Internet Watch and its partner Qurium–a media foundation with expertise in digital forensic investigations–concluded the attacker was connected with the government. Some activists were summoned by security forces for making antiwar posts online during the intensive fighting in the fall. For example, in November activist Latif Mammadov reported that State Security Service officials threatened to kill him and his family for his antiwar posts online.
Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report for the period from June 2019 through May again rated the country’s internet status as “not free.” The report concluded the state of internet freedom slightly deteriorated during the period covered. Despite some restrictions, the internet remained the primary method for
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citizens to access independent media. For example, while Meydan, Azadliq, and other media outlets were blocked, social media users were able to access their reports through Facebook, where videos and articles were shared without restrictions.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The government on occasion restricted academic freedom. Opposition party leaders reported their members had difficulty finding and keeping teaching jobs at schools and universities.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted these rights.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The government consistently and severely restricted freedom of peaceful assembly. Authorities at times responded to peaceful protests and assemblies by using force against or detaining protesters.
Prior to the imposition of restrictions aimed at combating COVID-19 in March, authorities prevented attempts by political opposition groups to organize demonstrations. For example, on February 11, police violently dispersed a protest concerning the conduct of the National Assembly elections and election results in front of the Central Election Commission. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission reported it observed riot police loading protesters onto buses in a disproportionately forceful way and that some protesters were beaten while inside the buses. On February 16, police detained and put approximately 200 protesters into cars and buses, drove them to either the distant suburbs of Baku or other regions of the country, and released them there without explanation or means of return. Following the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions, these political groups did not attempt to organize demonstrations that would have otherwise been consistent with the right to freedom of assembly.
During a large and apparently unplanned mid-July gathering in support of the army during fighting along the border with Armenia, there were minor clashes between police and a group of protesters, causing damage to cars and property inside and
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outside the National Assembly. Police used violence to disperse the crowd. According to Human Rights Watch, police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters.
Following a nationally televised speech in which President Aliyev accused the opposition Popular Front Party of having organized the demonstration, authorities arrested at least 16 members of the party, one member of the opposition Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Movement, and two members of the Muslim Unity Movement on criminal charges. An additional 15 or more members of the Popular Front Party were sentenced to administrative detention. Authorities made apparently politically motivated arrests in connection with the proarmy rally, although the gathering was apparently neither planned by the political parties nor in support of either the opposition or general freedom of assembly rights.
The law permits administrative detention for up to three months for misdemeanors and up to one month for resisting police. Punishment for those who fail to follow a court order (including failure to pay a fine) may include substantial fines and up to one month of administrative detention.
While the constitution stipulates that groups may peacefully assemble after notifying the relevant government body in advance, the government continued to interpret this provision as a requirement for prior permission rather than merely prior notification. Local authorities required all rallies to be preapproved and held at designated locations far from the city center of Baku and with limited access by public transportation. Most political parties and NGOs criticized the requirements as unacceptable and characterized them as unconstitutional.
Freedom of Association
The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the law places some restrictions on this right and severely constrained NGO activities. Citing these laws, authorities conducted numerous criminal investigations into the activities of independent organizations, froze bank accounts, and harassed local staff, including incarcerating and placing travel bans on some NGO leaders. Consequently, a number of NGOs were unable to operate.
A number of legal provisions allow the government to regulate the activities of political parties, religious groups, businesses, and NGOs, including requiring NGOs to register with the Ministry of Justice if they seek “legal personality” status. Although the law requires the government to act on NGO registration
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applications within 30 days of receipt (or within an additional 30 days, if further investigation is required), vague, onerous, and nontransparent registration procedures continued to result in long delays that limited citizens’ right to associate. Other laws restrict freedom of association, for example, by requiring deputy heads of NGO branches to be citizens if the branch head is a foreigner.
Laws affecting grants and donations imposed a de facto prohibition on NGOs receiving cash donations and made it nearly impossible for them to receive anonymous donations or to solicit contributions from the public.
The administrative code and laws on NGOs, grants, and registration of legal entities impose additional restrictions on NGO activities and the operation of unregistered, independent, and foreign organizations. The law also places some restrictions on donors. For example, foreign donors are required to obtain preapproval before signing grant agreements with recipients. The law makes unregistered and foreign NGOs vulnerable to involuntary dissolution, intimidates and dissuades potential activists and donors from joining and supporting civil society organizations, and restricts NGOs’ ability to provide grants to unregistered local groups or individual heads of such organizations.
Government regulations provide for a “single window” mechanism for registering grants. Under the procedures, grant registration processes involving multiple agencies are merged. The procedures were not fully implemented, however, further reducing the number of operating NGOs.
The Ministry of Justice is permitted by law to monitor NGO activities and conduct inspections of NGOs. The law offers few provisions protecting NGO rights and authorizes substantial fines on NGOs if they do not cooperate.
The far-reaching investigation opened by the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2014 into the activities of numerous domestic and international NGOs and local leadership remained open during the year. While the Prosecutor General’s Office dropped criminal cases against the American Bar Association and IREX and ordered their bank accounts unfrozen in July, the two groups continued to face administrative difficulties, such as a remaining tax levy imposed on IREX. Problems remained for other groups. For example, the bank accounts of the Democracy and Human Rights Resource Center remained frozen, and the organization was unable to operate (see section 5).
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The government continued to implement rules pursuant to a law that requires foreign NGOs wishing to operate in the country to sign an agreement and register with the Ministry of Justice. Foreign NGOs wishing to register a branch in the country are required to demonstrate their support of “the Azerbaijani people’s national and cultural values” and not be involved in religious and political propaganda. The decree does not specify any time limit for the registration procedure and effectively allows for unlimited discretion of the government to decide whether to register a foreign NGO. As of year’s end, at least four foreign NGOs had been able to renew their registrations under these rules.
NGO representatives stated the Ministry of Justice did not act on their applications, particularly those from individuals or organizations working on matters related to democratic development. Activists asserted the development of civil society had been stunted by years of government bureaucracy that impeded registration and that the country would otherwise have more numerous and more engaged independent NGOs.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/international-religious-freedom-reports/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected many of these rights but continued its practice of limiting freedom of movement for some prominent opposition figures, activists, and journalists.
During the period of martial law following the September 27 outbreak of intensive fighting with Armenia and Armenia-supported separatists, the government imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in six cities, including Baku and Ganja, and 16 districts.
Foreign Travel: Authorities continued to prevent a number of opposition figures, activists, and journalists from traveling outside the country. Examples included Popular Front Party chairperson Ali Kerimli (prohibited from traveling since 2006), investigative journalist and activist Khadija Ismayilova, and lawyer Intigam Aliyev.
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The law requires men of draft age to register with military authorities before traveling abroad. Authorities placed some travel restrictions on military personnel with access to national security information. Citizens charged with or convicted of criminal offenses and given suspended sentences were not permitted to travel abroad until the terms of their suspended sentences had been met.
e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 652,326 registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country as of midyear. The vast majority fled their homes between 1988 and 1994 as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
IDPs had access to education and health care, but their unemployment rate was higher than the national average. Some international observers continued to state the government did not adequately promote the integration of IDPs into society.
f. Protection of Refugees
The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to some refugees through the Refugee Status Determination Department at the State Migration Service, which is responsible for refugee matters. Although UNHCR noted some improvements, the country’s refugee-status determination system did not meet international standards. International NGOs continued to report the service remained inefficient and did not operate transparently.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: According to UNHCR, the country did not allow Russian citizens who fled the conflict in Chechnya access to the national asylum procedure. UNHCR noted, however, that the country tolerated the presence of Chechen asylum seekers and accepted UNHCR’s role in providing for their protection and humanitarian needs.
Access to Basic Services: The estimated 1,591 refugees (a number that included state-recognized refugees and those recognized as such only by UNHCR) in the
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able to enroll at ordinary schools in numerous regions throughout the country.
Temporary Protection: The government did not provide temporary protection to asylum seekers during the year.
g. Stateless Persons
According to UNHCR statistics, there were 3,585 persons in the country under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate at year’s end. According to the State Migration Service, 409 foreigners and stateless persons were granted citizenship during the year. The vast majority of stateless persons were ethnic Azerbaijanis from Georgia or Iran. NGOs stated there were many other undocumented stateless persons, with estimates ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands.
While the law provides for the right to apply for stateless status, some persons could not obtain the documentation required for the application and, therefore, remained formally unrecognized. The law on citizenship makes it difficult for foreigners and stateless persons to obtain citizenship.
Stateless persons generally enjoyed freedom of internal movement. Stateless persons were not, however, issued travel documents or readmitted if they left the country. The law provides stateless persons with access to the basic rights of citizens, such as access to health care and employment. Nevertheless, their lack of legal status at times hindered their access to these rights.
The constitution allows citizenship to be removed “as provided by law.” During the year the government stripped one person of citizenship.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
Although the constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, the government continued to restrict this ability by obstructing the electoral process. While the law provides for an independent legislative branch, the National Assembly exercised little initiative independent of the executive branch.
Elections and Political Participation
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Recent Elections: In December 2019, the president dissolved the National Assembly in response to an appeal to do so by the National Assembly and announced early elections for the body to be held on February 9.
Some opposition parties boycotted the election, citing the restrictive environment, while other opposition parties and groups took part. According to the OSCE ODIHR election observation mission, the restrictive legislation and political environment prevented genuine competition in the February 9 elections. ODIHR concluded that voters were not provided with a meaningful choice due to a lack of real political competition and discussion. Although many candidates utilized social media to reach out to voters, use of social media generally did not compensate for the absence of campaign coverage in traditional media. ODIHR observed several instances of pressure on voters, candidates, and candidates’ representatives. International and local observers reported significant procedural violations during the counting and tabulation of votes, including ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting. ODIHR concluded the flaws “raised concerns whether the results were established honestly.” Domestic nonpartisan election observers concluded the election results did not reflect the will of the people.
Similarly, in 2018 the president issued a decree advancing the presidential election from October 2018 to April 2018. Opposition parties boycotted the election, blaming a noncompetitive environment and insufficient time to prepare.
According to the ODIHR mission that observed the election, the presidential election took place in a restrictive political environment and under a legal framework that curtailed fundamental rights and freedoms that are prerequisites for genuine democratic elections. The mission concluded that, in the absence of pluralism, including in media, the election lacked genuine competition. International and local observers reported widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, such as ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting, on election day.
Following a 2016 referendum, constitutional amendments extended the presidential term from five to seven years and permitted the president to call early elections if twice in one year legislators passed no-confidence measures in the government or rejected presidential nominees to key government posts. The amendments also authorized the president to appoint one or more vice presidents, designating the senior vice president as first in the line of presidential succession. In 2017 the president appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as first vice president. While observers from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly reported the 2016 referendum was well executed, independent election observers identified numerous
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instances of ballot-box stuffing, carousel voting–a method of vote rigging usually involving voters casting ballots multiple times–and other irregularities, many of which were captured on video. Observers reported significantly lower turnout than was officially reported by the Central Election Commission.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The number of registered political parties increased from 55 to 63 during the year due to the registration of eight political parties, including the REAL party, the first such registrations since 2011. The ruling New Azerbaijan Party, however, continued to dominate the political system. Domestic observers reported membership in the ruling party conferred advantages, such as preference for public positions. Following the February 9 National Assembly elections, the body included only one representative of the country’s main opposition parties. The National Assembly had not included any opposition representatives since 2010.
During the year a Presidential Administration official established direct communication with some of the country’s 63 political parties and groups. The official held meetings with political figures, including representatives of selected opposition parties, throughout the year. Despite the dialogue, however, restrictions on political participation continued.
Opposition members were generally more likely than other citizens to experience official harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention. Members of opposition political parties continued to be arrested and sentenced to administrative detention after making social media posts critical of the government or participating in peaceful rallies (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly). From mid- March to mid-May, 16 members of the opposition Popular Front Party were arrested and sentenced to administrative detention mainly for violating the quarantine regime and resisting police charges. Human rights defenders estimated the country’s courts sentenced Popular Front Party activists to periods of administrative detention approximately 40 times during the year.
According to domestic NGOs, eight opposition party members were considered to be political detainees or prisoners, including Popular Front Party members Babek Hasanov, Agil Maharramov, Orkhan Bakhishli, Saleh Rustamli, Pasha Umudov, Elchin Ismayilli, Alizamin Salayev, and Niyamaddin Ahmadov.
Prior to its registration on August 31, the REAL party was unable to rent space to hold a founding congress. In light of this difficulty, the Presidential Administration official responsible for liaising with political parties suggested that
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the party hold its congress online, which REAL did in August. Opposition parties continued to have difficulty renting office space, reportedly because property owners feared official retaliation. Regional opposition party members often had to conceal the purpose of their gatherings and held them in teahouses and other remote locations. Opposition parties also faced formal and informal financing obstacles. For example, authorities continued to limit their financial resources by punishing those who provided material support, firing members of opposition parties, and employing economic pressure on their family members.
Restrictions on local civil society organizations limited their ability to monitor elections. Such restrictions included legal provisions severely constraining NGO activities and the inability of NGOs to obtain registration, which was required for legal status. For example, two nonpartisan election-monitoring organizations (the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) and the Institute for Democratic Initiatives) remained unregistered. The EMDS Center also reported that independent election observers were subjected to physical and psychological pressure during the February 9 National Assembly elections.
Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. The first lady also held the appointed position of first vice president. The head of the State Committee for Family, Women, and Children Affairs (SCFWCA), a cabinet-level position, was a woman, and 17.6 percent of members of the National Assembly, including the speaker of the Assembly, were women.
Female activists often faced additional pressure and harassment. For example, local officials launched a gender-based harassment and intimidation campaign against Vafa Nagi, a member of the Kholgaragashli municipal council of the Neftchala District, after she publicly raised governance concerns regarding water access and the illegal sale of lands. On June 16, the local municipal council chair reportedly ordered authorities to hang photographs of Nagi dressed in her swimsuit with the caption “Lady Gaga” throughout the conservative village to shame her and her family members.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. While the government made some progress in combating
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reports of corruption by government officials, including those at the highest levels.
Transparency International and other observers described corruption as widespread. There were reports of corruption in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. For example, in six reports on visits made to the country between 2004 and 2017, the CPT noted that corruption in the country’s entire law enforcement system remained “systemic and endemic.” In a report on its most recent visit to the country in 2017, for example, the CPT cited the practice of law enforcement officials demanding payments in exchange for dropping or reducing charges or for releasing individuals from unrecorded custody. These problems persisted throughout the year. Media outlets reported the arrests for accepting bribes of the mayors of Neftchala on February 20, Bilasuvar on April 29, Imishli on May 5, and Jalilabad on December 7.
Similar to previous years, authorities continued to punish individuals for exposing government corruption. For example, authorities continued punitive measures against investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, including freezing of her bank accounts since 2017, banning her travel since 2016, and failing to implement three ECHR rulings in her favor (see section 1.e.). In March 2019 the Baku Court of Appeals rejected Ismayilova’s appeal of the 2018 decision of the Baku Economic Court holding her accountable for 45,143 manat ($26,600) of RFE/RL’s alleged tax debt, despite RFE/RL’s tax-exempt status as a nonprofit entity. In August 2019 the Supreme Court upheld the verdict. Ismayilova’s reporting on elite corruption was widely considered the reason for the targeting, which also included her imprisonment from 2014 to 2016.
Corruption: The Anticorruption Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office stated that it completed investigation of 180 criminal cases against 281 officials and sent them to the courts during the year. While no senior officials were prosecuted, several high-ranking officials were arrested and charged. Several such cases remained under investigation at year’s end, including charges of corruption against the minister of culture and other high-ranking ministry officials, multiple ambassadors, several department heads at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and several heads and deputy heads of regional executive committees (governors). Although those accused were charged with corruption, the arrests were not accompanied by systemic reforms, such as requiring all officials to comply with the asset declaration law or ending punitive measures against persons who exposed corruption. As a result observers considered the arrests to have political or economic motives that were unrelated to combating corruption.
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The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published an article in April on the SerbAz company, which brought more than 700 workers from the Balkan region to Baku to build or renovate some its most prominent buildings between 2006 and 2009. The OCCRP revealed that SerbAz’s most powerful backer in the country was Minister of Youth and Sports Azad Rahimov. According to the OCCRP, there was strong evidence that the minister awarded contracts to his wife’s company, using public money to benefit his own family. SerbAz appeared to be a subsidiary of a major luxury importer, ItalDizain, a company owned jointly by Rahimov’s wife, Zulfiya Rahimova, and a man who appeared to be Rahimov’s associate. The Ministry of Youth and Sports signed contracts with SerbAz for the renovation of the Heydar Aliyev Sports and Concert Complex, the restoration of the “Palace of Happiness” marriage registration center, and the reconstruction of the Kur Olympic Training and Sports Center. While engaged in construction, workers were kept in inhuman conditions, were deprived of their passports, and reported physical abuse; several workers died.
There was widespread belief that a bribe could obtain a waiver of the military service obligation, which is universal for men between ages 18 and 35. Citizens also reported military personnel could buy assignments to easier military duties for a smaller bribe.
The government continued efforts to reduce low-level corruption and improve government services by expanding the capabilities and number of State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations service centers, which functioned as one- stop locations for government services, such as obtaining birth certificates and marriage licenses, from nine ministries.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires officials to submit reports on their financial situation and requires all candidates to submit financial statements. The process of submitting reports was complex and nontransparent, with several agencies and bodies designated as recipients, including the Anticorruption Commission, National Assembly, Ministry of Justice, and Central Election Commission, although their monitoring roles were not well understood. The public did not have access to the reports. The law permits administrative sanctions for noncompliance, but there were no reports that such sanctions were imposed.
The law prohibits the public release of the names and capital investments of business owners. Critics continued to state the purpose of the law was to curb investigative journalism into government officials’ business interests.
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AZERBAIJAN 38 Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
While the government provided access to certain areas of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, it restricted access to other areas, limiting reporting from local and international journalists, as well as international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Leading human rights NGOs faced a hostile environment for investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. For example, on August 3, former political prisoner and human rights defender Rufat Safarov was summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office and warned he would face arrest after he publicized reports concerning detentions and alleged torture of political opposition activists Fuad Gahramanli and Seymur Ahmedov after the July 14-15 proarmy rally in Baku (see section 1.c., Political Prisoners and Detainees).
As of December 31, human rights defender Oktay Gulaliyev remained in a coma after having been struck by a car in October 2019 while crossing a Baku intersection, causing head trauma that resulted in a cerebral hemorrhage and coma. Doctors did not perform surgery on him until the following day. Some activists and Gulaliyev’s sons stated the collision was an attack on Gulaliyev for his announced 2019 campaign against torture and his advocacy for those accused of wrongdoing by the government in connection with the 2018 unrest in Ganja, and that doctors had purposefully withheld timely medical treatment after the accident. They also noted that Gulaliyev had been warned by authorities not to report on repression and torture. Other activists stated there was no evidence the collision was intentional and that Gulaliyev received standard care from a deeply flawed health-care system. The government-controlled Heydar Aliyev Foundation covered the costs of Gulaliyev’s transfer and treatment in a private hospital in Turkey. During the year Gulaliyev’s family reported delays in the government’s investigation of the case. Gulaliyev’s lawyer complained that law enforcement bodies did not provide him with the findings of the investigation. On October 30, the Nasimi District Court initiated a hearing on the case. At his family’s request, on November 7, Gulaliyev was transported to his home in Baku where he continued to receive medical treatment.
The government continued to impose severe restrictions on the operations of domestic and international human rights groups. Application of restrictive laws to constrain NGO activities and other pressure continued at the same high level as
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recent years. Activists also reported that authorities refused to register their organizations or grants and continued investigations into their organizations’ activities. As a result some human rights defenders were unable to carry out their professional responsibilities due to various government obstacles, such as the travel ban on Intigam Aliyev and the frozen bank accounts of Intigam Aliyev and Asabali Mustafayev. On March 30, human rights defender and journalist Elchin Mammad was detained based on allegations of theft and illegal possession of a weapon. On October 14, he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. Human rights defenders viewed this verdict as politically motivated.
While the government communicated with some international human rights NGOs and responded to their inquiries, on numerous occasions it criticized and intimidated other human rights NGOs and activists. The Ministry of Justice continued to deny registration or placed burdensome administrative restrictions on human rights NGOs on arbitrary grounds. On December 17, however, the ministry registered the Baku Human Rights Club, an organization cofounded by prominent human rights defenders Rasul Jafarov and Javad Javadov.
Government officials and state-dominated media outlets engaged in rhetorical attacks on human rights activists and political opposition leaders (see section 3), accusing them of attempting to destabilize the country and working on behalf of foreign interests.
The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government objected to statements from international bodies, criticizing what authorities termed interference in the country’s internal affairs. In response to the adoption of a resolution on political prisoners by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on January 30, member of parliament Nagif Hamzayev commented that the country was treated unfairly and discriminated against. Although government officials and members of the National Assembly had previously criticized the OSCE/ODIHR assessment of the 2018 presidential election, government officials referred to the ODIHR assessment of the 2020 parliamentary elections as “balanced.”
Government Human Rights Bodies: Citizens may appeal violations committed by the state or by individuals to the ombudsperson for human rights for Azerbaijan or the ombudsperson for human rights of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The ombudsperson may refuse to accept cases of abuse that are more than one year old, anonymous, or already being handled by the judiciary. Human rights NGOs
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cases considered politically motivated.
Human rights offices in the National Assembly and Ministry of Justice also heard complaints, conducted investigations, and made recommendations to relevant government bodies, but they were similarly accused of ignoring violations in politically sensitive cases.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Women
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Spousal rape is also illegal, but observers stated police did not effectively investigate such claims.
The law establishes a framework for the investigation of domestic violence complaints, defines a process to issue restraining orders, and calls for the establishment of a shelter and rehabilitation center for survivors. Some critics of domestic violence law asserted that a lack of clear implementing guidelines reduced its effectiveness. Activists reported that police continued to view domestic violence as a family issue and did not effectively intervene to protect victims, including in cases where husbands ultimately killed their wives.
The SCFWCA tried to address the problem of domestic violence by conducting public awareness campaigns and working to improve the socioeconomic situation of domestic violence survivors. On November 27, the president approved the National Action Plan to Combat Domestic Violence for 2020-23. The government and an independent NGO each ran a shelter providing assistance and counseling to victims of trafficking and domestic violence. On December 1, the SCFWCA, together with the UN Population Fund, established an emergency hotline for gender-based violence. Callers could use the hotline to access free legal assistance, counseling support, and information concerning gender and domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The government rarely enforced the prohibition of sexual harassment or pursued legal action against individuals accused of sexual harassment.
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AZERBAIJAN 41 Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or
involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: Although women nominally enjoy the same legal rights as men, societal and employment-based discrimination remained a problem. According to the State Statistical Committee, there was discrimination against women in employment, including wide disparities in pay and higher rates of unemployment.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: The gender ratio of children born in the country during the year was 114 boys for 100 girls, according to the SCFWCA. Local experts reported gender-biased sex selection was widespread, predominantly in rural regions. The SCFWCA conducted seminars and public media campaigns to raise awareness of and address the problem.
Children
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country or from their parents. Registration at birth was routine for births in hospitals or clinics. Some children born at home were not registered.
Education: While education is compulsory, free, and universal until age 17, large families in impoverished rural areas sometimes placed a higher priority on the education of boys and kept girls in the home to work. Social workers stated that some poor families forced their children to work or beg rather than attend school.
Child Abuse: There is criminal liability for sexual violence against children. The law also stipulates punishment for child labor and other abuse against children. The SCFWCA organized multiple events prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to address the problem of child abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: According to UNICEF’s 2019 State of the World’s Children report, 11 percent of girls in the country were married before they were 18. The problem of early marriage continued during the year. The law provides that a girl may marry at age 18 or at 17 with local authorities’ permission. The law further states that a boy may marry at 18. The Caucasus Muslim Board defines 18 as the minimum age for marriage as dictated by Islam.
In July the SCFWCA organized two awareness-raising online events on prevention of early marriages.
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The law establishes substantial fines or imprisonment for up to four years for conviction of the crime of forced marriage with an underage child. Girls who married under the terms of religious marriage contracts were of particular concern, since these were not subject to government oversight and do not entitle the wife to recognition of her status in case of divorce.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of recruitment of minors for prostitution (involving a minor in immoral acts) is punishable by up to eight years in prison. The law prohibits pornography, its production, its distribution, or its advertisement, for which conviction is punishable by three years’ imprisonment. Conviction of statutory rape is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Some civil society representatives reported that boys and girls at times engaged in prostitution and street begging.
Displaced Children: Significant government investment in IDP communities largely alleviated the problem of numerous internally displaced children living in substandard conditions and unable to attend school.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child- Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
Anti-Semitism
The country’s Jewish community was estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, but the government did not enforce these provisions effectively. The law calls for improved access to education, employment, social protection and justice, and the right to participate in political
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life. Local experts noted that, although financial payments for persons with disabilities increased in 2019, in general the implementation of this law was not satisfactory, and persons with disabilities continued to experience problems.
A common belief persisted that children with disabilities were ill and needed to be separated from other children and institutionalized. According to official statistics, there were approximately 62,951 children with disabilities in the country. A local NGO reported that 6,000 to 10,000 of them had access to segregated educational facilities, while the rest were educated at home or not at all. The Ministries of Education and Labor and Social Protection of the Population continued efforts to increase the inclusion of children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms, particularly at the primary education level.
Legislation mandates that access to public or other buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities. Some assistance existed for them, including in education; however, this mandate was not fully implemented. Information and communication technology and most buildings were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Conditions in facilities for persons with mental and other disabilities varied. Qualified staff, equipment, and supplies at times were lacking.
Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups
Following the closure of borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1991, inflammatory rhetoric and hate speech became increasingly prevalent, particularly as an entire generation grew up without interactions with the other side. Civil society activists stated that an entire generation had grown up listening to hate speech against Armenians. Individuals with Armenian-sounding names were often subjected to additional screening at border crossings and were occasionally denied entrance to the country. During the intensive fighting involving Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Armenia-supported separatists from September 27 to November 10, all sides reportedly committed atrocities (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.).
On May 26, the ECHR rendered a judgment in the case of Makuchyan and Minasyan v. Azerbaijan and Hungary, finding that Azerbaijan had violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of discrimination). In 2004 Azerbaijani soldier Ramil Safarov killed sleeping Armenian soldier Gurgen Markarian while both were attending NATO training in Budapest. Convicted by Hungarian authorities to life imprisonment in 2006, Safarov was pardoned and feted after his transfer to Azerbaijan in 2012. The court did not find the government of Azerbaijan responsible for Ramil Safarov’s actions but
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criticized Azerbaijani authorities’ failure to enforce the punishment of Safarov, effectively granting him impunity for a serious hate crime. Moreover, the court found Safarov’s pardon and other measures in his favor had been ethnically motivated, citing statements by high-ranking officials expressing their support for his actions targeting Armenian soldiers.
Some groups, including Talysh in the south and Lezghi in the north, reported the government did not provide official textbooks in their local native languages.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
A local NGO reported incidents of police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation and noted that authorities did not investigate or punish those responsible. There were also reports that men who acknowledged or were suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) during medical examinations for conscription were sometimes subjected to rectal examinations and often found unqualified for military service on the grounds that they were mentally ill. There were also reports of family-based violence against LGBTI individuals, including being kidnapped by family members and held against their will. Hate speech against LGBTI persons and hostile Facebook postings on personal online accounts also continued.
Antidiscrimination laws exist but do not specifically cover LGBTI individuals.
Activists reported that LGBTI individuals were regularly fired by employers if their sexual orientation or gender identity became known.
LGBTI individuals generally refused to file formal complaints of discrimination or mistreatment with law enforcement bodies due to fear of social stigma or retaliation. Activists reported police indifference to requests that they investigate crimes committed against LGBTI individuals.
Local NGOs reported that COVID-19-pandemic-related quarantine measures compounded the impact of the discrimination already faced by members of the LGBTI community. Since these individuals regularly faced discrimination in accessing employment, they were primarily employed informally and received payment on a day-to-day basis.
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During the year the ECHR continued a formal inquiry begun in February 2019 into police raids on the LGBTI community in 2017. The raids entailed arrests and detentions of more than 83 men presumed to be gay or bisexual as well as transgender women. Media outlets and human rights lawyers reported that police beat detainees and subjected them to electric shocks to obtain bribes and information regarding other gay men. Detainees were released after being sentenced to up to 30 days of administrative detention, fined up to 200 manat ($118), or both. In 2018 some victims of the raids filed cases against the state in the ECHR.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Civil society representatives reported discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV and AIDS were prevalent throughout society. The government continued to fund an NGO that worked on health problems affecting the LGBTI community.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right to form and join independent trade unions. Uniformed military and police and managerial staff are prohibited from joining unions. While the law provides workers the right to bargain collectively, unions could not effectively negotiate wage levels and working conditions because government-appointed boards ran major state-owned firms and set wages for government employees.
The law provides most private-sector workers the right to conduct legal strikes but prohibits civil servants from striking. Categories of workers prohibited from striking include high-ranking executive and legislative officials; law enforcement officers; court employees; fire fighters; and health, electric power, water supply, telephone, railroad, and air traffic control workers.
The law prohibits discrimination against trade unions and labor activists and requires the reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The law also prohibits retribution against strikers, such as dismissal or replacement. Striking workers convicted of disrupting public transportation, however, may be sentenced to up to three years in prison. No strikes occurred during the year.
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The government did not effectively enforce laws related to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those under other laws involving denial of civil rights. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. There were some additional restrictions, such as increased bureaucratic scrutiny of the right to form unions and conduct union activities.
Most unions were not independent, and the overwhelming majority remained tightly linked to the government, with the exception of some journalists’ unions. The Azerbaijan Trade Unions Confederation (ATUC) was the only trade union confederation in the country. Although ATUC registered as an independent organization, it was closely aligned with the government. ATUC reported it represented 1.2 million members in 27 sectors. Both local and international NGOs claimed that workers in most industries were largely unaware of their rights and afraid of retribution if they exercised those rights or initiated complaints. This was especially true for workers in the public sector.
Collective bargaining agreements were often treated as formalities and not enforced. Although labor law applies to all workers and enterprises, the government may negotiate bilateral agreements that effectively exempt multinational enterprises from it. For example, production-sharing agreements in the oil and gas sector supersede domestic law and often do not include provisions for employee participation in a trade union. While the law prohibits employers from impeding the collective bargaining process, employers engaged in activities that undercut the effectiveness of collective bargaining, such as subcontracting and using short-term employment agreements.
The state oil company’s 50,000 workers were required to belong to the Union of Oil and Gas Industry Workers, and authorities automatically deducted union dues from paychecks. Many of the state-owned enterprises that dominated the formal economy withheld union dues from worker pay but did not deposit the dues in union accounts. Employers officially withheld one-quarter of the dues collected for the oil workers’ union for “administrative costs” associated with running the union. Unions and their members had no means of investigating how employers spent their dues.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except in circumstances of war or in the execution of a court decision under the supervision of a
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government agency. Penalties for violations, including imprisonment, were commensurate with those for other analogous crimes. The government did not effectively enforce applicable law. Resources and inspections were inadequate, due in part to a moratorium on all routine and unannounced labor inspections. The government worked with the International Finance Corporation on a project to reform the state inspection system.
Broad provisions in the law provide for the imposition of compulsory labor as a punishment for expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social, or economic system. In 2018 the International Labor Organization Committee of Experts noted its concern with a growing trend of using various provisions of the criminal code to prosecute journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, and others who expressed critical opinions, under questionable charges that appeared politically motivated, resulting in long periods of corrective labor or imprisonment, both involving compulsory labor.
Foreign observers made several visits to various regions of the country to observe the 2019 cotton harvest, including the Sabirabad, Saatli, Imishli, Beylagan, Agjabadi, Barda, and other districts located between Baku and the city of Ganja. No cases of forced labor were observed during the harvest.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
In most cases the law permits children to work from age 15 with a written employment contract; children who are 14 may work in family businesses or, with parental consent, in daytime after-school jobs that pose no hazard to their health. Children younger than 16 may not work more than 24 hours per week; children 16 or 17 may not work more than 36 hours per week. The law prohibits employing children younger than 18 in difficult and hazardous conditions and identifies specific work and industries in which children are prohibited, including work with toxic substances and underground, at night, in mines, and in nightclubs, bars, casinos, or other businesses that serve alcohol.
The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting child labor and setting a minimum age for employment. The government maintained a moratorium on routine and unannounced inspections, which may have prevented effective enforcement of child labor law. Resources and inspections were inadequate to
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enforce compliance, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes. Although the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection could receive and respond to complaints, its response did not include worksite inspections. Instead, the State Labor Inspection Service within the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection investigated complaints by requesting information from the employer in question. Inspectors identified violations and imposed appropriate penalties based on the information they received.
On July 22, the president approved the National Action Plan for 2020-2024 on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The plan tasked the relevant government bodies to continue efforts to: identify victims of human trafficking and forced labor, including children; carry out special work with children engaged in begging; develop general standards of communication with child victims or potential victims of human trafficking; conduct training on the identification and protection of child victims or potential victims of human trafficking; and conduct awareness-raising work with entrepreneurs and employers in order to prevent the exploitation of child labor.
There is no legal employment of children younger than age 15 in the country, and authorities reported no instances of investigated child labor in legal sectors of the economy. There were reports of children engaging in child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, and agriculture. During visits to observe the 2019 cotton harvest, foreign observers did not note any instances of child labor. Some nongovernmental observers, however, reported instances of rural children younger than 15 sometimes working on the family farm or accompanying parents working as day laborers to agricultural fields.
Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, but the government did not always enforce the law effectively. Legal penalties for discrimination in employment existed under various articles and laws but were patchwork in nature and not commensurate with those under other laws related to civil rights. The law excludes women from 678 occupations in 38 industries that are framed as inherently dangerous jobs. Many of these positions were higher
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AZERBAIJAN 49 ranked and better paid than positions that women were permitted to occupy in the
same industries.
Employers generally hesitated to hire persons with disabilities, and workplace access was limited. Discrimination in employment and occupation also occurred with respect to sexual orientation. LGBTI individuals reported employers found other reasons to dismiss them, because they could not legally dismiss someone because of their sexual orientation. Women were underrepresented in high-level jobs, including top business positions. Traditional practices limited women’s access to economic opportunities in rural areas. According to the State Statistics Committee, in 2019 the average monthly salary for women was 58 percent of the average monthly salary for men. According to gender experts, gender-based harassment in the workplace was a problem.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The national minimum wage was higher than the poverty income level (minimum living standard). Experts stated government employers complied with the minimum wage law but that it was commonly ignored in the informal economy. The law requires equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, age, or other classification, although women’s pay lagged behind that of men.
The law provides for a 40-hour workweek. Workers in hazardous occupations may not work more than 36 hours per week. Information was not available on whether local companies provided the legally required premium compensation for overtime, although international companies generally did. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime. The law provides equal rights to foreign and domestic workers.
The government did not effectively enforce the laws on acceptable conditions of work, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.
In 2017 the government extended its moratorium on scheduled and unannounced labor inspections through 2020. Although inspectors were permitted to request information from employers and relevant employees in order to investigate complaints, complaint response did not include worksite inspections. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection reported that it investigated 8,512 complaints during the year.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

AZERBAIJAN 50
Inspection of working conditions by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection’s labor inspectorate was weak and ineffective due to the moratorium. Although the law sets health and safety standards, employers are known to ignore them. Violations of acceptable conditions of work in the construction and oil and gas sectors remained problematic. A local NGO reported that oil workers were forced to work lengthy shifts at sea because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Local human rights groups, including the Oil Workers Rights Defense Organization, an NGO dedicated to protecting worker rights in the petroleum sector, maintained that employers, particularly foreign oil companies, did not always treat foreign and domestic workers equally. Domestic employees of foreign oil companies reportedly often received lower pay and worked without contracts or private health-care insurance. Some domestic employees of foreign oil companies reported violations of labor law, noting they were unable to receive overtime payments or vacations.
According to official statistics, 48 workers died on the job during the year, including three in the oil and gas sector.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020

United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/AZERBAIJAN-2020-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT.pdf

On March 14, an attempt was made on the life of a blogger and political emigrant from Azerbaijan Mohammed Mirzali in France. As it became known to Turan from sources in the Azerbaijani diaspora, the unknown stabbed him and escaped.
The blogger was hospitalized in serious condition. The police are investigating.
Mirzali is known for publishing harshly critical reports about the Azerbaijani authorities on social networks for several years. The authorities tried many times to shut him up, but failed. So, three years ago, his father was kidnapped, a week ago, a video about his sister’s personal life was circulated. Mirzali claims that he was required to stop criticizing, otherwise the video will be circulated.
In October 2020, Mirzali announced an attempt on his life, as well as SMS threats from one of the high-ranking representatives of the Azerbaijani parliament. To all these threats, he said that he would not stop criticizing the country’s authorities.

Azerbaijani media in 2020

February 17th, 2021

This study examined more than 130 incidents against media and journalists in Azerbaijan in 2020. Information about the incidents is based on local media reports, journalists and bloggers involved in the incident, and their legal representatives.
Restrictions in connection with the pandemic

Restrictions imposed in Azerbaijan in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic have created additional problems for the media. Strict quarantine rules have been applied in Azerbaijan since March 2020 in connection with the pandemic. The compliance of the application of these rules with laws has been highly controversial. Because local legislation allows the application of such strict measures in the event of a state of emergency. A state of emergency was not declared in Azerbaijan. In general, it can be noted that the media and the working environment of journalists in Azerbaijan have been severely affected by the application of strict quarantine measures.

The application of quarantine rules was accompanied by serious violations against the media and journalists. In at least 15 cases, journalists with licenses working in specific media outlets were prosecuted for violating quarantine rules or were not allowed to perform their professional activity freely. Saadat Jahangir, an employee of the Azadlig newspaper (azadliq.info) that has strong opposition content, has twice faced violations. She was once taken to the police station and interrogated. Previously, the journalist was administratively fined for violating quarantine rules. Natig Isbatov, an employee of the 7gun.az news portal, was detained in the course of his professional activity, taken to the police station, and administratively arrested. Sevinj Sadigova, an employee of the azel.tv news portal, was also detained and released after receiving an official warning. Ibrahim Vazirov, an employee of Kanal24 Internet TV, Mirsahib Rahiloglu, an employee of reportyor.info, and independent journalists Elgun Ganjimsoy and Ismayil Islamoglu (twice) were also punished for violating quarantine rules. They were administratively arrested.

Physical pressures

In Azerbaijan in 2020, journalists were physically assaulted at least 26 times. Such incidents occurred mainly when journalists were gathering information from mass rallies and protests.
In the first months of 2020, it is noticeable that journalists were more exposed to physical pressures. Parliamentary elections were held in Azerbaijan in February. Journalists who gathered information from post-election protests were targeted. Most of the journalists who gathered information from the rally in front of the Central Election Commission in early February were obstructed and, in some cases, subjected to violence. Independent journalists Aynur Elgunash and Sevinj Vagifgizi and the head of the basta.com website, Mustafa Hajibeyli, were injured in the incident. A total of 13 journalists, including journalists Aytaj Tapdig, Aygun Rashid, Nurlan Gahramanli, Mehman Huseynov, were obstructed – they were not allowed to film, they were forcibly put on a bus and taken to the outskirts of the city. During the election process, journalists gathering information in Baku, Mingachevir, and Lankaran were physically assaulted at least 8 times.
In women’s march calling for an end to violence against women in Baku on March 8, employees of Meydan TV, Izolda Aghayeva, Aysel Umudova, a journalist of Toplum TV, Zarifa Novruz, correspondents of Turan News Agency, Aziz Karimov and Tatyana Kryuchkina, Fargana Novruzova (azadliq.info), Nargiz Abdsalamova (Mikroskop Media), Samira Ali (anews.az) were subjected to pressure.
On March 18, in the protest made by a group of citizens in front of the Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan, a photo and video operator of RFE / RL, Ramin Deko, was beaten and his professional tools were confiscated. Freelancers Tabriz Mirzayev, Nurlan Gahramanli, Avaz Hafizli, Teymur Karimov, Sevinj Sadigova, and others also faced physical pressure and received various injuries. Zaur Ganbarov, an employee of the anews.az news website, was beaten in a government body while performing his professional activities.

Non-physical pressures

In 2020, there were at least 37 incidents involving Internet resources and those working on those resources. The basta.info website, which is close to opposition political parties, as well as basta.info’s resources in other domains, have been under attack throughout the year. The website has been repeatedly destroyed and access has been blocked. The resource’s social media pages were also attacked.
Access to the websites of critical independent media outlets, RFE / RL, Azadlig newspaper, Azerbaycan Saati program, Meydan TV, and Turan Internet TV, which were blocked by a court decision in 2017, remained closed. At the same time, the Plenum of the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan annulled all court decisions related to these media and decided to reconsider the case. The initiator of the closure of the websites is the Ministry of Communications. The ministry is now demanding that not only the websites of the five media outlets but also all Internet resources that disseminate the content of those media outlets be blocked.

The websites of Turan News Agency, which is known for its independent position, at turan.az and contact.az have faced constant cyber attacks. Attacks on resources lasted more than 4 days. As a result, the content of the resources was severely damaged. Some of the materials were deleted and could not be restored later. Resources argument.az, toplum.tv, and abzas.net, which criticize the government, were also attacked.
In some cases, journalists’ personal e-mails and social media pages were attacked. Naila Balayeva, editor-in-chief of the anews.az news website, was subjected to such pressure. Along with the website she heads, her personal Facebook page has also come under cyber attack. Independent journalist Arzu Geybulla has faced attacks of campaign nature, threats, and insults on the Internet due to her articles.
Courts against journalists

In 2020, the media was repressed at least 67 times, using legal mechanisms against journalists. The journalists were prosecuted for slander and insult, as well as other suspicious charges. Detention of journalists performing their professional activities, interrogation of journalists in law enforcement agencies, and administrative punishment of journalists without proper legal grounds were the main notable incidents.
Azerbaijani legislation still criminalizes defamation and insult. Journalists were prosecuted at least 13 times in 1 year for defamation and insult. Elchin Hasanzadeh, a journalist working in Mingachevir city and an employee of the yukselish.info website, a blogger Ibrahim Turksoy, and Anar Mammadov, the head of the kriminal.az website, have been prosecuted for their writings.
Mirhasan Seyidov, the head of the Neftchala District Executive Power, had Adil Huseynli, the editor-in-chief of the small-budget website bizimxeber.az, been fined 1,000 AZN for his writings.

Well-known businessman, millionaire Gulagha Ganbarov (Gulagha Tanha) filed a civil lawsuit against 4 media outlets – legion.az, realmedia.az, dia.az, heqiqixeber.com. Dissatisfied with the articles spread in those media, the plaintiff demanded a fine of 100,000 AZN for each website. Another well-known businessman Rasim Mammadov has sued Zaur Gariboglu, editor-in-chief of Reaksiya Internet TV, advocate Aslan Ismayilov, and journalist Taleh Shahsuvarli on both civil and private charges.

In 2020, at least 5 journalists, bloggers, and social media activists were imprisoned on various charges. Elchin Mammad, editor-in-chief of the Yuksalish Namine newspaper and head of the Sumgayit Youth Legal Awareness Organization, was convicted of “theft” and “illegal possession of weapons” and sentenced to 4 years in prison. Polad Aslanov, the head of xeberman.com, was convicted of high treason and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Shafag Aghajan, head of the Bakupress Agency, was sentenced to 3 years in prison in 2020. The head of azel.tv, Afgan Sadigov, was convicted of “extortion”. The journalist was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Blogger Aslan Gurbanov was arrested on charges of inciting anti-government protests. Jalil Zabidov, a blogger working in the region, was sentenced to 5 months in prison on hooliganism charges following his critical sharings. Well-known critical journalist Tazakhan Miralamli, an employee of the Azadlig newspaper, was also found guilty of hooliganism. Local courts sentenced him to 1 year in prison.

A criminal case has been opened against a group of Azerbaijani bloggers operating abroad. Ordukhan Temirkhan, Gurban Mammadov, Orkhan Aghayev, Rafael Piriyev, Ali Hasanaliyev, Tural Sadigli, accused of inciting anti-government protests, have been declared internationally wanted.

The state of access to public information

Public information agencies do not respond to information requests in full, on time, or in an appropriate manner. The rate of response to inquiries in accordance with the law is around 35-40 percent. How 29 information requests sent to information owners were fulfilled in 2020 was investigated. 16 of those inquiries were answered. 15 of these answers were given after the 7-day period established by law. 10 of the responses to the information requests covered asked information. According to the inquiries, high-ranking government agencies responded. Local executive authorities responded to only one of the information requests sent to them.
Those whose rights to information have been violated do not receive the necessary support from the courts. In 2020, at least 8 lawsuits were filed with the courts in connection with the violation of the right to information. The courts generally did not uphold any of these allegations against the executive powers.

An analysis of media-related incidents in 2020 shows that there is no significant change in the means by which media workers are negatively affected. Independent and critical journalists and bloggers performing their professional activities are detained, their professional tools are interfered with, and their professional activities are obstructed. Journalists against whom criminal proceedings are instituted are usually detained pending trial. Professional journalists are physically harassed and beaten. Legal mechanisms to protect them from such abuse are not working. Criminal and civil lawsuits against the media for defamation and insult of journalists remain common, and the jurisprudence in this area is not strictly in line with the practice of the European Court. The target of physical and non-physical pressures is usually the independent media, which criticizes the government, and the journalists who work for such media. Blocking the Internet media has become commonplace, and the country’s parliament has introduced new additions to the legislation that make it even easier to block any media. Media outlets that disseminate content that the government does not like are periodically cyber-attacked and destroyed. There is no easy access to public information.

by ASTNA.biz https://www.astna.biz/ext/news/2021/2/subsc/pol-massmedia/en/1933.htm

В этом исследовании было рассмотрено более 130 инцидентов против СМИ и журналистов в Азербайджане в 2020 году. Информация об инцидентах основана на сообщениях местных СМИ, журналистов и блогеров, причастных к инциденту, а также их законных представителей.
Ограничения в связи с пандемией
Ограничения, введенные в Азербайджане в связи с пандемией COVID-19, создали дополнительные проблемы для средств массовой информации. В связи с пандемией в Азербайджане с марта 2020 года действуют строгие карантинные правила. Соответствие применения этих правил законам было весьма спорным. Потому что местное законодательство допускает применение таких жестких мер в случае чрезвычайного положения. Однако в Азербайджане не было объявлено чрезвычайное положение. В целом можно отметить, что средства массовой информации и среда деятельности журналистов в Азербайджане серьезно пострадали от применения строгих карантинных мер.
Применение карантинных правил сопровождалось серьезными нарушениями в отношении средств массовой информации и журналистов. По меньшей мере в 15 случаях журналисты, имеющие лицензии на работу в конкретных СМИ, были привлечены к ответственности за нарушение карантинных правил или им не давали возможность свободно осуществлять свою профессиональную деятельность. Саадат Джахангир, сотрудник оппозиционной газеты “Азадлыг” (azadliq.info) дважды сталкивалась с нарушениями. Однажды ее доставили в полицейский участок и допросили. Ранее журналистка была оштрафована в административном порядке за нарушение правил карантина.
Натиг Исбатов, сотрудник новостного портала 7gun.az был задержан при осуществлении своей профессиональной деятельности, доставлен в отделение полиции и арестован в административном порядке. Севиндж Садыгова, сотрудница новостного портала azel.tv также была задержана, ей было сделано официальное предупреждение, после чего она была отпущена. Ибрагим Вазиров – сотрудник интернет-телевидения Kanal24, Мирсахиб Рахилоглу – сотрудник reportyor.info, независимые журналисты Эльгюнь Ганджимсой и Исмаил Исламоглу (дважды) также были наказаны за нарушение карантинных правил. Они были арестованы в административном порядке.
Физическое давление
В Азербайджане в 2020 году журналисты подвергались физическому насилию, по меньшей мере, 26 раз. Такие инциденты происходили в основном во время сбора журналистами информации о массовых митингах и акций протеста.
Особенно много журналисты подвергались физическому давлению в первые месяцы 2020 года. В феврале в Азербайджане прошли парламентские выборы. Мишенью стали журналисты, собиравшие информацию о поствыборных протестах. Большинство журналистов, собиравших информацию об акции перед Центральной избирательной комиссией в начале февраля, подверглись преследованиям, а в некоторых случаях и насилию.
Независимые журналисты Айнур Эльгунеш, Севиндж Вагифгызы и руководитель сайта basta.com Мустафа Гаджибейли в результате инцидента были травмированы. Всего 13 журналистов, в том числе журналисты Айтадж Тапдыг, Айгун Рашид, Нурлан Гахраманлы, Мехман Гусейнов были задержаны – им чинили препятствия для проведения съемок, насильно посадили в автобус и увезли на окраину города. В ходе избирательного процесса журналисты, собирающие информацию в Баку, Мингячевире и Лянкяране подвергались физическому насилию не менее 8 раз.
В ходе проведения женского марша в Баку 8 марта с призывом положить конец насилию в отношении женщин физическому давлению подверглись сотрудники телеканала “Мейдан” Изольда Агаева, Айсель Умудова, журналист телеканала “Топлум” Зарифа Новруз, корреспонденты Информационного агентства “Туран” Азиз Каримов и Татьяна Крючкина, Фаргана Новрузова (azadliq.info), Наргиз Абдсаламова (Микроскоп Медиа), Самира Али (anews.az).
18 марта в ходе акции протеста, проведенной группой граждан перед посольством Турции в Азербайджане, был избит фото и видео оператор РАДИО “Свобода” Рамин Деко, а его профессиональное оборудование было конфисковано. Фрилансеры Тебриз Мирзаев, Нурлан Гахраманлы, Аваз Хафизли, Теймур Каримов, Севиндж Садыгова и другие также подверглись физическому давлению и получили различные травмы. Заур Ганбаров, сотрудник anews.az новостной сайт, был избит в одном из государственных органов при осуществлении своей профессиональной деятельности.
Нефизические давления
В 2020 году произошло не менее 37 инцидентов в отношении интернет-ресурсов и их сотрудников. В basta.info сайт, близкий к оппозиционным политическим партиям, а также basta.info – ресурсы сайта в других доменах подвергались атакам в течение всего года. Сайт неоднократно был разгромлен, а доступ к нему блокировался. Также были атакованы страницы ресурса в социальных сетях.
Доступ к сайтам критических независимых СМИ, РАДИО СВОБОДА, газете Азадлыг, программе Azerbaycan Saati, Meydan TV и интернет-телевидению Turan, которые были заблокированы по решению суда в 2017 году, остается закрытым. В то же время Пленум Верховного Суда Азербайджана отменил все судебные решения, связанные с этими СМИ, и постановил пересмотреть дело. Инициатором закрытия сайтов является Министерство связи. Сейчас министерство требует заблокировать не только сайты пяти СМИ, но и все интернет-ресурсы, распространяющие контент этих СМИ.
Сайты Информационного агентства “Туран”, известного своей независимой позицией, по адресу turan.az и contact.az сталкивались с постоянными кибератаками. Атаки на ресурсы продолжались более 4 дней. В результате содержание ресурсов было сильно повреждено. Некоторые материалы были удалены и не могли быть восстановлены позже. Ресурсы argument.az, toplum.tv, и abzas.net, которые критикуют правительство, также подверглись кибер атакам.
В некоторых случаях нападениям подвергались личные электронные почты журналистов и страницы в социальных сетях. Наиля Балаева, главный редактор новостного сайта anews.az подверглась такому давлению. Вместе с сайтом, который она возглавляет, ее личная страница в Facebook также подверглась кибератаке. Независимый журналист Арзу Гейбулла столкнулась с нападками, угрозами и оскорблениями в Интернете из-за своих статей.
Суды против журналистов
В 2020 году с использованием правовых механизмов против СМИ, журналистов было совершено не менее 67 нападений. Журналисты были привлечены к ответственности за клевету и оскорбление, а также по другим сомнительным обвинениям. Основными заметными инцидентами были задержание журналистов, осуществляющих свою профессиональную деятельность, допрос журналистов в правоохранительных органах и административное наказание журналистов без надлежащих правовых оснований.
Азербайджанское законодательство по-прежнему криминализирует клевету и оскорбление. Журналисты за год были привлечены к ответственности по меньшей мере 13 раз за клевету и оскорбление. Эльчин Гасанзаде, журналист, работающий в городе Мингячевире и сотрудник yukselish.info сайт, блогер Ибрагим Тюрксой и глава сайта kriminal.az Анар Мамедов были привлечены за свои статьи к уголовной ответственности (исправительные работы).
Глава Исполнительной власти Нефтчалинского района Мирхасан Сеидов оштрафовал в судебном порядке главного редактора малобюджетного сайта bizimxeber.az Адиля Гусейнли на 1000 манат за его статьи.
Известный бизнесмен, миллионер Гулага Ганбаров (Gulagha Tanha) подал гражданский иск против 4 СМИ – legion.az, realmedia.az, dia.az, heqiqixeber.com. Недовольный статьями, распространенными в этих СМИ, истец потребовал оштрафовать каждый из сайтов в размере 100 000 манатов. Другой известный бизнесмен Расим Мамедов подал в суд на Заура Гарибоглу, главного редактора интернет-телевидения “Реакция”, адвоката Аслана Исмаилова и журналиста Талеха Шахсуварли как в порядке гражданского иска, так и в порядке частного обвинения.
В 2020 году по меньшей мере 5 журналистов, блогеров и активистов социальных сетей были лишены свободы по различным обвинениям. Главный редактор газеты “Юксалиш намине” и руководитель Сумгайытской организации по правовому просвещению молодежи Эльчин Мамедов был осужден за “кражу” и “незаконное хранение оружия” и приговорен к 4 годам лишения свободы. Полад Асланов, руководитель xeberman.com, был признан виновным в государственной измене и приговорен к 16 годам лишения свободы. Глава агентства “Бакупресс” Шафаг Агаджан в 2020 году был приговорен к 3 годам лишения свободы. Глава сайта azel.tv Афган Садыгов был осужден за “вымогательство путем угроз”. Журналист был приговорен к 7 годам лишения свободы.
Блогер Аслан Гурбанов был арестован по обвинению в подстрекательстве к антиправительственным протестам. Джалиль Забидов, блогер, работающий в регионе, был приговорен к 5 месяцам лишения свободы по обвинению в хулиганстве после его критических высказываний. Известный критический журналист Тазахан Мираламли, сотрудник газеты “Азадлыг”, также был признан виновным в хулиганстве. Местные суды приговорили его к 1 году лишения свободы.
В отношении группы азербайджанских блогеров, действующих за рубежом, возбуждено уголовное дело. Ордухан Темирхан, Гурбан Мамедов, Орхан Агаев, Рафаэль Пириев, Али Гасаналиев, Турал Садигли, обвиняемые в подстрекательстве к антиправительственным выступлениям, объявлены в международный розыск.
Состояние доступа к общественной информации
Государственные информационные агентства не отвечают на информационные запросы в полном объеме, своевременно или надлежащим образом. Процент ответов на запросы в соответствии с законом составляет около 35-40 процентов. Было изучено выполнение 29 информационных запросов, направленных владельцам информации в 2020 году. На 16 из них были даны ответы. Причем на 15 запросов ответы были даны после 7-дневного срока, установленного законом. 10 ответов на информационные запросы касались запрашиваемой информации. На запросы отвечали высокопоставленные государственные структуры. Местные исполнительные органы ответили только на один из направленных им информационных запросов.
Те, чьи права на информацию были нарушены, не получают необходимой поддержки со стороны судов. В 2020 году в суды было подано не менее 8 исков в связи с нарушением права на получение информации. Суды, как правило, не поддержали ни одно из обвинений против исполнительной власти.
Анализ инцидентов, связанных со средствами массовой информации в 2020 году, показывает, что не произошло существенных изменений в средствах негативного воздействия на работников средств массовой информации. Независимые и критически настроенные журналисты и блогеры, осуществляющие свою профессиональную деятельность, подвергаются задержанию, их профессиональное оборудование подвергается вмешательству, их профессиональной деятельности препятствуют. Журналисты, в отношении которых возбуждаются уголовные дела, обычно задерживаются до суда.
Осуществляющие профессиональную деятельность журналисты подвергаются физическим преследованиям и избиениям. Правовые механизмы защиты их от подобного грубого обращения не работают. Предъявление уголовных и гражданских исков за клевету и оскорбления в отношении журналистов и медиа остается обычным явлением, судебная практика в этой сфере не совсем соответствует практике Европейского суда.
Объектом физического и нефизического давления обычно являются независимые СМИ, критикующие правительство, и журналисты, работающие в таких медиа. Блокировка интернет-СМИ стала обычным делом, и парламент страны внес новые дополнения в законодательство, которые еще больше облегчают блокировку любых СМИ. Средства массовой информации, распространяющие контент, который не нравится правительству, периодически подвергаются кибератакам и уничтожаются. Нет легкого доступа к публичной информации.

https://www.turan.az/ext/news/2021/2/free/analytics/ru/1416.htm

Help Azerbaijani human right defender Mehman Huseynov fight cancer

# HelpMehman Donate here: https://gf.me/u/x6a5tq

My youngest brother , the well-known Azerbaijani journalist, human rights defender, and anti-corruption activist, Mehman Huseynov , is seriously ill.
A few weeks ago, doctors from the Oncology Center of the Geneva University Hospital finally diagnosed cancer as a  solitary fibrous tumor.

Fortunately, doctors said that Mehman has a great chance to fight this disease if he can start the prescribed treatment regimen as soon as possible. The treatment will be done in phases. The first phase includes 5 to 6 weeks course of radiotherapy, which will cost CHF 30 000 (CHF 1,00 = US$ 1,04 ). The second phase is the surgical removal of the tumor, which will cost CHF 12,000 if radiotherapy can effectively reduce the tumor size; if not the cost of surgery can rise to CHF 44,000. A total of CHF 74 000 is needed to pay for his hospitalization and treatment.

Neither Mehman nor I have such an amount of money. We have dedicated all our professional lives in non-profit organizations, defending human rights, and earning just enough to spend for daily needs. At that time, Mehman could not even afford to pay for health insurance that could cover some of his health care costs.

I am the eldest brother of Mehman and I’m currently a refugee and a stateless person living in Switzerland. After several failed attempts to get a clear diagnosis and treatment from Azerbaijan and neighboring country Georgia, Mehman finally was able to come to Switzerland and undergo proper diagnostic procedures through the support of partner human rights organizations. But he came in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. The closure of the borders prevented us to look for cheaper diagnostic and treatment opportunities in other European countries. We are grateful that highly qualified doctors in Switzerland are committed to effectively cure him, but we need to have a unified effort to raise the fund for his treatment.

Mehman – who has committed his life to the protection of human rights and democracy – needs your help! His life is currently in danger and he needs our support so he could return to Azerbaijan in good health and continue his good deeds.

I call on everyone who cares for the fate of Mehman to show solidarity and help him raise CHF 74,000 to preserve his life and regain his health.

For those who do not know Mehman, he is a young good-humoured person with high aspirations for his country and fellow citizens. He is a passionate journalist and blogger who already endured a lot of pain and sufferings because of his dedication to protect human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan. He is now 30 years old and for the past 8 years of his life, Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly tortured and illegally detained him, resulting in some irreparable damage to his health and well-being.

In 2012, a politically motivated criminal case was opened against Mehman for the first time, in retaliation for his active participation in the campaign “Sing for democracy”. While this did not lead to detention, the Azerbaijani authorities imposed a travel ban on him and forcibly annulled all of his identification documents.

Despite this unlawful persecution, Mehman and I work together and established the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), the agency is dedicated to promoting the freedom of expression and protecting journalist from abuse and oppression. IRFS initiated the development of free media in an otherwise oppressive country.

These initiatives infuriated the Azerbaijani authorities and led to the initiation of another politically motivated criminal case, this time against me. Fearing for my life , I was forced to leave Azerbaijan and go into political exile. Mehman stayed in Azerbaijan. He continued his human rights work , fearlessly criticizing corrupt officials in power.

In March 2017, Mehman was imprisoned for publicly criticizing the obvious nepotism and manipulation of power by the current President of Azerbaijan for appointing his wife as the country’s first vice president. While in prison, our beloved mother, Frangiz Huseynova , fell seriously ill and died in a governmental hospital in Baku, because of the doctors’ negligence and inaction. Mehman was only allowed one temporary leave from prison to attend her funeral . Following this tragedy, his commitment to fight abuse and corruptions becomes even stronger. His voice became the voice of many people in Azerbaijan, especially those who suffered different forms of oppression.

Seeing Mehman’s determination, authorities opened a new criminal case against him 2 months before his scheduled release to keep him locked up for another 7 years. In protest of this lawlessness, he began a hunger strike . The authorities’ actions against him led to a series of public outcries among the people of Azerbaijan, followed by several public protests in his support , which captured the attention of many international human rights organizations that called for his immediate release.

Thanks to the great support of the people of Azerbaijan and the international community , the authorities dropped the criminal cases and released him from prison in March 2019. Since then, his right to travel has been reinstated allowing him to participate in international forums and give a voice to the oppressed journalists and civil societies in his country. He resumed his journalistic and human rights activities in Azerbaijan despite constant threats from the authorities.

In December 2019, Mehman was again arrested , illegally detained in response to his songs about corruption among the ruling party. Upon, Mehman’s arrest, he was brought to a deserted place where he was brutally tortured, beaten, humiliated and abandoned when he could no longer stand on his own feet. After a couple of hours, he was able to call friends who helped bring him to a hospital in Baku. While the doctors in Azerbaijan recognized a number of physical injuries, Mehman was denied hospitalization and a full medical examination.

Acknowledging the deterioration in Mehman’s health, some international human rights organizations helped him obtain a full medical examination in Georgia in January 2020. Doctors in Georgia saw indication of an oncologic disease but could not provide a definitive diagnosis due to the lack of advanced diagnostic facilities, hence suggesting seeking confirmatory testing in a more advanced country in Europe.

Now, Mehman’s cancer is confirmed. He needs our help and support to win this fight. Help us bring him back to health so he can continue his mission of bringing hope for democracy in Azerbaijan.

We know that the Covid19 pandemic has a financial impact on many of you; therefore we will gratefully appreciate any amount with which you can contribute to his treatment. You can also help us reach-out to more people who might be willing to donate by forwarding the link to this fund raiser to them or through sharing it on your social media pages.

We thank you in advance for your kind hearts and generosity!!!

Aidez Mehman Huseynov, défenseur azerbaïdjanais des droits de l’homme, à lutter contre le cancer

Mon frère cadet , le célèbre journaliste azerbaïdjanais, défenseur des droits de l’homme et militant anti-corruption, Mehman Huseynov , est gravement malade. Il y a quelques semaines, des médecins du Centre d’oncologie de l’Université de Genève ont finalement diagnostiqué un cancer constitué d’une tumeur fibreuse unique.

Heureusement, les médecins ont constaté que Mehman avait de grandes chances de vaincre cette maladie s’il pouvait commencer le traitement prescrit le plus vite possible. Le traitement se fera en plusieurs phases. La première phase comprend une séance de radiothérapie de 5 à 6 semaines, qui coûtera 30 000 CHF . La deuxième phase est l’ablation chirurgicale de la tumeur, qui coûtera 12 000 CHF si la radiothérapie réussi à réduire la taille de la tumeur; sinon, le coût de l’intervention chirurgicale peut atteindre 44 000 CHF. Par conséquent un total de 74 000 CHF est nécessaire pour payer son hospitalisation et son traitement. (CHF 1,00 = US$ 1,04 )

Ni Mehman ni moi n’avons de tels moyens. Nous avons consacré toute notre vie professionnelle à des organisations à but non lucratif, en défendant les droits de l’homme et en ne gagnant que le stricte minimum pour couvrir nos besoins quotidiens. A l’époque, Mehman ne pouvait même pas se permettre de payer une assurance maladie qui aurait pu couvrir une partie de ses frais de santé.

Je suis le frère aîné de Mehman et je suis actuellement réfugié et apatride vivant en Suisse. Après plusieurs tentatives infructueuses pour obtenir un diagnostic et un traitement clairs en Azerbaïdjan et dans le pays voisin, la Géorgie, Mehman a finalement pu venir en Suisse et être diagnostiqué grâce au soutien d’organisations partenaires des droits de l’homme. Mais il est venu au tout début de la pandémie de coronavirus. La fermeture des frontières nous a empêchés de rechercher des opportunités de traitement moins chères dans d’autres pays européens. Nous sommes reconnaissants que les médecins hautement qualifiés en Suisse se soient engagés à le soigner efficacement, mais nous avons besoin d’efforts unifiés pour collecter les fonds nécessaires à son traitement.
Mehman – qui a consacré sa vie à la protection des droits de l’homme et de la démocratie – a besoin de votre aide! Sa vie est actuellement en danger et il a besoin de notre soutien pour pouvoir retourner en Azerbaïdjan en bonne santé et continuer son activité.

J’appelle tous ceux qui se soucient du sort de Mehman à faire preuve de solidarité et à l’aider à collecter 74 000 CHF pour préserver sa vie et récupérer sa santé.

Pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas Mehman, c’est un jeune homme joyeux avec de grandes aspirations pour son pays et ses concitoyens. C’est un journaliste et blogueur passionné qui a déjà enduré beaucoup de souffrances qui résultent de son engagement à protéger les droits de l’homme et la démocratie en Azerbaïdjan. Il a maintenant 30 ans et au cours des 8 dernières années de sa vie, les autorités azerbaïdjanaises l’ont torturé et détenu illégalement à plusieurs reprises, ce qui a causé des dommages irréparables à sa santé et à son bien-être.
En 2012, un dossier pénal à motivation politique a été ouvert contre Mehman pour la première fois, en représailles pour sa participation active à la campagne “Chantez pour la démocratie”. Bien que cela n’ait pas conduit à un emprisonnement, les autorités azerbaïdjanaises lui ont interdit de quitter le pays et ont annulé de force tous ses documents d’identité.

Malgré cette persécution illégale, Mehman et moi ont depuis et jusqu’en 2014 travaillé ensemble et avons créé l’Institut pour la liberté et la sécurité des journalistes (ILSJ), l’organisation se consacre à promouvoir la liberté d’expression et à protéger les journalistes contre les abus et l’oppression. L’ILSJ a initié le développement de médias libres dans un pays par ailleurs répressif.

Ces initiatives ont exaspéré les autorités azerbaïdjanaises et ont conduit à l’initiation d’une autre affaire pénale à motivation politique, cette fois contre moi. Craignant pour ma vie, j’ai été forcé de quitter l’Azerbaïdjan et de partir en exil politique. Mehman est resté en Azerbaïdjan. Il a poursuivi son activité dans la protection des droits de l’homme, critiquant sans crainte les fonctionnaires corrompus au pouvoir.

En mars 2017, Mehman a été emprisonné pour avoir critiqué publiquement le népotisme évident et la manipulation du pouvoir par l’actuel Président de l’Azerbaïdjan, et notamment, pour avoir nommé sa femme premier vice-président du pays. Alors qu’il était en prison, notre mère, Frangiz Huseynova , est tombée gravement malade et est décédée dans un hôpital public à cause de la négligence et l’inaction des médecins. Mehman n’a été autorisé à quitter temporairement la prison qu’une seule fois pour pouvoir être présent à ses funérailles. Suite à cette tragédie, son engagement à lutter contre les abus et la corruption s’est renforcé. Sa voix est devenue la voix de nombreux Azerbaïdjanais, en particulier ceux qui ont subi différentes formes d’oppression.

Voyant la détermination de Mehman, les autorités ont initié un nouveaux cas pénal contre lui, 2 mois avant sa libération, dans le but de le garder enfermé pendant encore 7 ans. En signe de protestation contre cette illégalité, il a entamé une grève de la faim . Les provocations des autorités contre lui ont causée une série de tollés publics parmi le peuple azerbaïdjanais ; suivis de plusieurs protestations publiques en sa faveur, attirant l’attention de nombreuses organisations internationales des droits de l’homme qui ont demandé sa libération immédiate.

Grâce à ce soutien du peuple azerbaïdjanais et de la communauté internationale, les autorités ont abandonné le nouveau dossier pénal et l’ont libéré de prison en mars 2019. Depuis lors, son droit de voyager a été rétabli lui permettant de participer à des forums internationaux et donner une voix aux journalistes opprimés et aux sociétés civiles de son pays. Il a repris ses activités journalistiques et de défense des droits de l’homme en Azerbaïdjan malgré les menaces constantes des autorités.

En décembre 2019, Mehman a de nouveau été arrêté parce qu’il avait organisé une manifestation demandant la libération d’un rappeur bien connu, illégalement détenu à cause de ses chansons sur la corruption au sein du parti au pouvoir. Apres avoir été arrêté, Mehman a été emmené dans un endroit désert où il a été brutalement torturé, battu, humilié et abandonné sur place quand il ne pouvait plus se tenir debout. Après quelques heures, il a pu appeler des amis qui l’ont aidé à se rendre dans un hôpital de Bakou. Alors que les médecins Azerbaïdjanais ont reconnu un certain nombre de blessures physiques, Mehman s’est vu refuser l’hospitalisation et un examen médical complet.

Reconnaissant la détérioration de la santé de Mehman, certaines organisations internationales des droits de l’homme l’ont aidé à obtenir un examen médical complet en Géorgie en janvier 2020. Les médecins géorgiens ont vu des signes de maladie oncologique mais n’ont pas pu fournir un diagnostic définitif en raison du manque d’outils, et lui ont donc suggéré de se faire diagnostiquer dans des pays médicalement plus avancés en Europe.

Aujourd’hui, nous avons pu confirmer la présence du cancer. Mehman a besoin de notre aide et de notre soutien pour gagner ce combat. Aidons-le à récupérer sa santé afin qu’il puisse poursuivre sa mission : donner espoir à la démocratie en Azerbaïdjan.

Nous savons que la pandémie de Covid19 a un eu un impact financier important pour beaucoup d’entre vous ; ainsi, nous apprécierons toutes contributions à son traitement. Vous pouvez également nous aider à joindre de nombreuses personnes qui pourraient être disposées à faire un don en leur envoyant le lien vers cette collecte de fonds ou en partageant ce lien sur vos réseaux sociaux.

Nous vous remercions d’avance pour votre bon cœur et votre générosité !!!

Помогите азербайджанскому правозащитнику Мехману Гусейнову побороть рак

Мой младший брат, известный азербайджанский журналист, правозащитник и борец с коррупцией Мехман Гусейнов серьезно болен. Несколько недель назад врачи выявили у него онкологическое заболевание в виде одиночной фиброзной опухоли.

К счастью Мехман имеет очень большие шансы справиться с данной болезнью если как можно быстрее начнет лечение. Первая фаза лечения будет заключаться в 5 или 6 недельном курсе радиотерапии, затраты на которого составят до 30 тысяч швейцарских франков (CHF) . После завершения радиотерапии спустя 4 недели врачи проведут операцию по полному удалению опухоли. В случае оптимистичного сценария выздоровления после радиотерапии минимальные затраты на операцию оставят 12 тыс. CHF, но если выздоровление после радиотерапии пойдет по пессимистическому сценарию затраты на операцию увеличатся до 44 тыс. CHF . Сумма, которая может понадобиться только на оплату расходов в госпитале, составит около 74 000 CHF.

Ни у меня, ни у Мехмана нет таких денег. Мы всю свою жизнь работали в некоммерческих организациях, защищая права человека, у нас даже нет ни каких сбережений и накоплений. У Мехмана даже не было медицинской страховки, которая могла бы покрыть необходимые расходы
Я его старший брат, проживающий в Швейцарии в статусе беженца и лица без гражданства.

После нескольких неудачных попыток получить лечение и четкий диагноз в Азербайджане и соседней Грузии, Мехман при поддержке партнерских правозащитных организаций, смог приехать в Швейцарию и пройти надлежащие диагностические процедуры. Мехман приехал ко мне из Азербайджана в разгар глобальной пандемии коронавируса. Из-за закрывшихся границ у нас не было другой возможности пройти обследование и лечение в какой-либо другой европейской стране, где лечение могло бы быть дешевле по сравнению с Швейцарией.
Мы благодарны высококвалифицированным швейцарским врачам за то, что они прилагают эффективны усилия для лечения Мехмана, но нам необходимо объединить усилия, чтобы собрать средства на для оплаты его лечения.

Мехман, посвятил свою жизнь защите прав человека и демократии и сегодня нуждается в вашей помощи! Его жизнь в настоящее время в опасности, и ему нужна наша поддержка, чтобы он мог вернуться в Азербайджан с хорошим здоровьем и продолжить свои благородные дела.
Я призываю всех, кому небезразлична судьба Мехмана, проявить солидарность и помочь ему собрать 74 000 CHF для сохранения жизни и восстановления здоровья.

Для тех, кто не знает Мехмана, он молодой добродушный человек с большой привязанностью к своей стране и согражданам. Он страстный журналист и блогер, который уже перенес много боли и страданий из-за своей приверженности защите прав человека и демократии в Азербайджане. Сейчас ему 30 лет, и за последние 8 лет его жизни азербайджанские власти неоднократно пытали и незаконно задерживали его, что привело к необратимому ущербу для его здоровья.

Впервые против него возбудили политически мотивированное уголовное дело в 2012 за активное участие в кампании «Пой ради демократии». С момента открытия данного уголовного и последующие 5 лет Мехману запрещали покидать пределы Азербайджана, одновременно у него были аннулировали все его документы, подтверждающие его личность.
Несмотря на это незаконное преследование, я и Мехман продолжали работать вместе в Институте Свободы и Безопасности Репортеров , занимаясь развитием свободных СМИ и защитой журналистов в Азербайджане.

Наши правозащитные инициативы вызывали гнев у азербайджанских властей и привели к возбуждению еще одного политически мотивированного уголовного дела, на этот раз против меня. Опасаясь за свою жизнь, я был вынужден покинуть Азербайджан и отправиться в политическое изгнание за рубеж. Мехман остался в Азербайджане. Он продолжал свою правозащитную работу, бесстрашно критикуя коррумпированных чиновников.

3 марта 2017 года Мехмана посадили в тюрьму за то, что он публично высмеял непотизм правящей семьи, когда президент Азербайджана Ильхам Алиев назначил свою супругу Мехрибан Алиеву на пост первого вице-президента Азербайджана. Арест Мехмана не смогла пережить наша мать Франгиз Гусейнова , которая из-за преднамеренного бездействия врачей умерла в больнице в августе 2018 года.

Власти на один день выпустили из тюрьмы Мехмана, разрешив присутствовать на похоронах матери. После этой трагедии его приверженность борьбе со злоупотреблениями и коррупцией стала еще сильнее. Его голос стал голосом многих людей в Азербайджане, особенно тех, кто пострадал от различных форм угнетения.

Видя непримиримость Мехмана за два месяца до дня ожидаемого его освобождения против него возбудили новое уголовное дело с целью удержать в тюрьме на следующие 7 лет. В знак протеста на очередное беззаконие против себя Мехман Гусейнов в тюрьме начал акцию голодовки.

Грубая провокация властей против Мехмана привела к массовому общественному негодованию среди населения Азербайджана, которое вышло на многотысячную акцию протеста в его поддержку. С призывами освободить Мехмана выступили многие международные правозащитные организации.

Благодаря огромной поддержке народа Азербайджана и международного сообщества власти прекратили уголовные дела и освободили его из тюрьмы в марте 2019 года. С тех пор его право на зарубежные поездки было восстановлено, что позволило ему участвовать в международных форумах и доносить голос угнетенных журналистов и представителей гражданских общества. Он возобновил свою журналистскую и правозащитную деятельность в Азербайджане, несмотря на постоянные угрозы со стороны властей.

В декабре 2019 года Мехман организовал акцию протеста с требованием освободить известного репера, которого арестовали за создание новой песни, в которой он спел о коррупционных бизнес интересах правящей элиты. Час спустя после акции протеста Мехман на глазах у многочисленных свидетелей был задержан полицейскими и насильно увезен в неизвестном направлении. Привезя его на пустынную территорию за 150 километров от Баку несколько полицейских на протяжении 30 минут подвергали Мехмана жестоким пыткам и избиениям и унижениям и оскорблениям. Видя что его самочувствие серьезно ухудшилось полицейские прекратили его избивать и уехали, оставив одного на пустыре. Спустя пару часов Мехман смог позвонить близким, которые приехали за ним и отвезли обратно в город. Врачи в Азербайджане констатировали множество ушибов, однако отказали Мехману в госпитализации и полном обследовании.

Видя, что состояние его здоровья ухудшается, международные правозащитные организации в январе 2020 года помогли Мехману и организовали полное медицинское обследование в соседней Грузии.
Врачи, обследующие Мехмана в Грузии выявили первичный тревожный диагноз, который показал подозрение на развитие онкологической болезни и рекомендовали ему пройти повторное обследование в Европейской стране с более развитой медициной.

Сейчас у Мехмана окончательно подтверждено онкологическое заболевание. Ему нужна наша помощь и поддержка, чтобы выиграть этот бой. Помогите нам вернуть его здоровье, чтобы он мог продолжать свою миссию по содействию правам человека и демократии в Азербайджане.
Мы знаем, что пандемия Covid19 оказывает финансовое влияние на многих из вас; поэтому мы будем благодарны за любую сумму, с которой вы можете внести свой вклад в его лечение. Вы также можете помочь нам обратиться к большему количеству людей, которые могут захотеть пожертвовать, переправив им ссылку на этот сбор средств или поделившись ею на своих страницах в социальных сетях.

Заранее благодарим за добрые сердца и щедрость !!!

Azərbaycanlı hüquq müdafiəçisi Mehman Hüseynova xərçənglə mübarizədə kömək edin

Kiçik qardaşım, tanınmış azərbaycanlı jurnalist, hüquq müdafiəçisi və korrupsiyaya qarşı mübarizə aparan Mehman Hüseynov ağır xəstədir.
Bir neçə həftə əvvəl həkimlər onda tək fibroz şiş şəklində onkoloji xəstəlik aşkar ediblər.

Xoşbəxtlikdən Mehman ən qısa müddətdə müalicəyə başlasa bu xəstəliyin öhdəsindən gəlmək üçün çox yaxşı bir şansı var.

Müalicənin ilk mərhələsi dəyəri təxminən 30 min Isvecrə frankı (CHF) edən 5 və ya 6 həftəlik radioterapiya kursundan ibarətdir. Radioterapiya tamamladıqdan sonra həkimlər 4 həftə sonra şişin tamamilə çıxarılması üçün bir əməliyyat keçirəcək. Radioterapiya sonrası sağalma optimist bir ssenari ilə getsə, əməliyyatın dəyəri 12 min CHF təşkil edəcək, pessimist ssenariyə ilə getsə, 44 min CHF qədər artacaq. Yalnız xəstəxanada xərcləri ödəmək üçün lazım ola biləcək məbləğ təxminən 74 min CHF olacaq (CHF 1,00 = US$ 1,04 ).

Nə məndə, nə Mehmanda bu qədər pul yoxdur. Bütün ömrümüz boyu insan haqlarını müdafiə edən qeyri-kommersiya təşkilatlarında işləmişik və heç bir əmanətimiz yoxdur.

Mehmanın hətta lazımı xərcləri ödəyə biləcək tibbi sığortası yoxdur.
Mən onun İsveçrədə qaçqın və vətəndaşlığı olmayan vəziyyətdə yaşayan böyük qardaşıyam.

Azərbaycanda və qonşu Gürcüstanda müalicə və diqnoz üçün bir neçə uğursuz cəhddən sonra tərəfdaş insan hüquqları təşkilatlarının dəstəyi ilə Mehman İsveçrəyə gələrək lazımı diaqnostik prosedurlardan keçə bildi.
Mehman qlobal koronavirus pandemiyasının qızğın vaxtında Azərbaycandan yanıma gəldi. Sərhədlər bağlı olduğundan, müalicə və müayinəni İsveçrə ilə müqayisədə daha ucuz başa gələ biləcəyi Avropa ölkəsində etmək imkanımız yox idi.

Mehmanın müalicəsi üçün səmərəli səy göstərdiyinə görə yüksək ixtisaslı İsveçrə həkimlərinə minnətdarıq, amma onun müalicəsi üçün pul toplamaq üçün səylərimizi birləşdirməliyik.

Həyatını insan hüquqlarını və demokratiyanın müdafiəsinə həsr etmiş Mehmanın köməyinizə ehtiyacı var!

Hazırda onun həyatı təhlükə altındadır və sağlamlığına qovuşmaq və nəcib işlərini davam etdirə bilməsi üçün Azərbaycana qayıtması üçün dəstəyimizə ehtiyacı var.

Mehmanın taleyinə biganə qalmayan hər kəsi həmrəylik göstərməyə və onun həyatını qurtarmaq və sağlamlığını bərpa etmək üçün 74.000 CHF toplamağa kömək etməyə çağırıram.

Mehmanı tanımayanlar üçün deyək ki, o ölkəsinə və həmyerlilərinə böyük sevgi ilə yanaşan safqəlbli gəncdir.

Azərbaycanda insan hüquqları və demokratiyanı müdafiə etdiyinə görə çox əzab və əziyyət çəkən jurnalist və blogerdir.

İndi onun 30 yaşı var, ömrünün son 8 ilində Azərbaycan hakimiyyəti ona dəfələrlə işgəncə vermiş və qanunsuz olaraq həbs etmiş, bu da sağlamlığına ciddi ziyan vurub.

İlk dəfə 2012-ci ildə “Demokratiya üçün oxu” kampaniyasında fəal iştirakına görə ona qarşı siyasi motivli cinayət işi qaldırıldı.

Bu cinayət işi açılandan sonra və növbəti 5 ildə Mehmana Azərbaycan sərhədlərini tərk etmək qadağan edildi, eyni zamanda şəxsiyyətini təsdiqləyən bütün sənədlər ləğv edildi.

Bu qanunsuz təqiblərə baxmayaraq, Mehman və mən Reportyorların Azadlıq və Təhlükəsizlik İnstitutunda Azərbaycanda azad medianı inkişafı və jurnalistlərin müdafiəsi ilə məşğul olaraq birlikdə fəaliyyətimizi davam etdirdik.

İnsan haqları təşəbbüslərimiz Azərbaycan hakimiyyətini qəzəbləndirdi və bu mənə qarşı siyasi motivli cinayət işinin başlanmasına səbəb oldu.
Həyatıma təhlükə hiss etdiyimdən Azərbaycanı tərk edib xaricdə siyasi sürgünə getməyə məcbur oldum. Mehman Azərbaycanda qaldı. Korrupsioner məmurları qorxmadan tənqid edərək insan hüquqları sahəsində fəaliyyətini davam etdirdi.

3 mart 2017-ci ildə Azərbaycan Prezidenti İlham Əliyev həyat yoldaşı Mehriban Əliyevanı Azərbaycanın birinci vitse-prezidenti vəzifəsinə təyin edəndə açıq şəkildə hakim ailənin qohumbazlığına iztehza etdiyinə görə Mehman həbs edildi.

Anamız Frəngiz Hüseynova Mehmanın həbsinə dözə bilmədi və həkimlərin qəsdən hərəkətsizliyi səbəbindən 2018-ci ilin avqust ayında xəstəxanada vəfat etdi. Hakimiyyəti Mehmanı anasının dəfnində iştirak etmək üçün cəmi bir günlüyə həbsxanadan azad etdi.

Bu faciədən sonra onda sui-istifadə və korrupsiyaya qarşı mübarizə istəyi daha da gücləndi. Onun səsi Azərbaycanda bir çox insanın, xüsusən də müxtəlif zülmlərdən əziyyət çəkənlərin səsinə çevrilib.

Sərbəst buraxılacağı gündən iki ay əvvəl Mehmanın barışmazlığını görüb növbəti 7 il həbsxanada saxlamaq məqsədi ilə ona qarşı yeni cinayət işi açıldı. Özünə qarşı növbəti qanunsuzluğa etiraz olaraq Mehman Hüseynov həbsxanada aclıq aksiyasına başladı.

Hakimiyyətin Mehmana qarşı kobud təxribatı Azərbaycan əhalisi arasında geniş ictimai narazılığa səbəb oldu və ona dəstək məqsədilə minlərlə insan mitinqə çıxdı.

Bir çox beynəlxalq insan haqları təşkilatları Mehmanın sərbəst buraxılması çağırışları ilə çıxış etdi.

Azərbaycan vətəndaşlarının və beynəlxalq ictimaiyyətin böyük dəstəyi sayəsində hakimiyyət cinayət işini bağladı və 2019-cu ilin martında Mehman sərbəst buraxıldı.

O vaxtdan qeyri-qanuni olan xaricə getmək qadağası da götürüldü və yenidən beynəlxalq tədbirlərdə iştirak etmək və incidilən jurnalistlərin və vətəndaş cəmiyyəti nümayəndələrinin səsini çatdırmaq imkanı qazandı.

Hakimiyyətin davamlı təhdidlərinə baxmayaraq, Azərbaycanda jurnalist və hüququ müdafiəçisi kimi fəaliyyətlərini bərpa etdi.

2019-cu ilin dekabr ayında Mehman, hakim ailənin korrupsioner biznes maraqları haqqında səsləndirdiyi yeni bir mahnı hazırladığına görə həbs olunan məşhur bir repçinin sərbəst buraxılması tələbi ilə etiraz aksiyası təşkil etdi. Etirazdan bir saat sonra çoxsaylı şahidlər qarşısında Mehman polislər tərəfindən tutulub və zorla naməlum istiqamətə aparılıb. Mehmanı Bakıdan 150 kilometr aralıda boş əraziyə gətirən bir neçə polis əməkdaşı 30 dəqiqə ərzində ağır işgəncə və döyülməyə, təhqir və alçaldılmalara məruz qoyub. Səhhətinin pisləşdiyini və ayaq üstündə dayana bilmədiyini görən polislər onu döyməyi dayandırıb və tək qoyub gediblər. Bir neçə saatdan sonra Mehman yaxınlara zəng edə bilib və onların köməkliyi ilə şəhərə qayıdıb. Azərbaycanda həkimlər Mehmanın çoxlu sayda xəsarət aldığını qeyd etsə də, onu xəstəxanaya yerləşdirilməkdən və tam müayinə etməkdən imtina edib.

Səhhətinin pisləşdiyini görən beynəlxalq insan hüquqları təşkilatları 2020-ci ilin yanvarında Mehmana kömək edərək onun qonşu Gürcüstanda tam tibbi müayinə olunmasını təşkil etdi.

Gürcüstanda Mehmanı müayinə edən həkimlər xərçəng xəstəliyinin inkişafı şübhəsini aşkarladı və səhiyyəsi daha çox inkişaf etmiş Avropa ölkəsində təkrar müayinədən keçməsini tövsiyə etdilər.

İndi Mehmanda xərçəng xəsətlyinin olduğu təsdiqlənib. Bu mübarizədə qalib gəlmək üçün köməyimizə və dəstəyimizə ehtiyacı var. Onun sağlamlığını bərpa etməyimizə kömək edin ki, Azərbaycanda insan hüquqları və demokratiyanı təşviq etmək vəzifəsini davam etdirsin.

Covid19 pandemiyasının bir çoxunuza maddi təsir etdiyini bilirik; buna görə də onun müalicəsinə töhfə verə biləcəyiniz hər hansı bir məbləğə görə minnətdar olacağıq.

Həmçinin, bu müraciəti sosial şəbəkələrdə səhifələrinizdə paylaşaraq yardım etmək istəyən daha çox insana üz tutmağımıza kömək edə bilərsiniz.

Mərhəmətli ürəklərinizə və səxavətinizə görə əvvəlcədən təşəkkür edirik!!!

Early in 2015, Dunja Mijatovic, then OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, wrote a letter to Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, conveying her concerns about the case of journalist Khadija Ismayil, who had been arrested for her investigative reports on govenrment corruption and kleptocracy, including the country’s first family’s involvement.

“In the letter, I noted that Ismayilova has serious health issues and requires continuing professional medical care.” Mijatovic said in a written statement to a Congressional panel held in Washington D.C. in December 2015. The letter to Mammadyarov was never responded to…

In her second letter to Azeri authorities in late February, Mijatovic requested permission to attend Ismayilova’s trial. “I noted reports that members of the independent press and civil society had been denied access to the courtroom. No permission to attend the trial was granted,” she informed the Congress members.

As Mijatovic was trying to reach out the foreign minister that summer to seek his support on behalf of the jailed anti-corruption journalist, little did the world know then that Mammadyarov’s own family was busy purchasing lavish apartments in Manhattan, New York’s resonant heartbeat.

According to the New York Tax Department records, obtained by TURAN’s Washington correspondent, in the summer of 2015, the foreign minister’s eldest son Emin Mammadyarov purchased not only one, but two apartments in Manhattan, paying slightly over $4.2 million U.S. dollars in total, in all-cash deals.

Following a recent social media discussion on Mammadyarov family’s wealth and their Manhattan apartments, which was first broke by journalist Javansir Hasanli, TURAN’s U.S. correspondent has reached out to New York authorities for more details regarding the deeds of the 31-year-old son of the minister.

According to official records, during the months of June-July Emin Mammadyarov purchased two apartment units (PH2K and PH3K) at Manhattan’s former Trump Place buildings located at 120 Riverside Blvd.

Built in 2004 by the Trump organization the building is 21 floors, and it has an suite amenities including an indoor pool, fitness center, sauna and Jacuzzi, a private landscaped roof deck which overlooks the Hudson River. It is also close to New York’s Central Park. Last year, the name “Trump Place” came down from the building’s facade after condominium owners voted to have the name removed.

It is not clear how young Mammadyarov could pay huge sums for luxury units in Manhattan. TURAN’s correspondent has tried to reach out to him for comment via phone and social media but never heard back.

Mammadyarovs family are not new to New York as the current foreign minister used to once serve at Azerbaijani mission at UN in the early 1990s. In recent years though, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Azerbaijan was hit by numerous corruption scandals, while the minister himself has been accused of mismanagement and bribery in the local media

The U.S. real estate market is a favorite money-laundering vehicle for foreign kleptocrats, given that in our globalized world, kleptocracy is no longer bound by geography. In fact, much of that stolen wealth weaves its way through the international shadow banking system and ends up in the U.S. property market, with consequences for the western democracy and economy.

As for Mammadyarov, in his 2019 interview dedicated to 100th Anniversary of the Diplomatic Service, the foreign minister told the state-run Azertac News Agency that “I think that the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic would be proud of us if they could witness the development of modern Azerbaijan.”

It isn’t too hard, however, to imagine the founding fathers’ reaction to kleptocracy in action in independent Azerbaijan, where high level officials and their cronies can enjoy the benefits of the freedom and legal protections of rule of law abroad, the very rights that they deny to their own citizens at home.

Alex Raufoglu

Washington D.C.

(C) by TURAN NEWS AGENCY https://bit.ly/2B3kq7y

IRFS CALLS ON THE AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES TO PUT AN END TO ALL ILLEGAL RESTRICTION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION UNDER THE PRETEXT OF SAFETY MEASURES AGAINST THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the Azerbaijani authorities for beginning a large-scale repression campaign against its critics and restricting freedom of expression under the pretext of the aggravation of the safety measures against the new coronavirus pandemic.
IRFS condemns the illegal and frequent attempts by the authorities to restrict freedom of expression in Azerbaijan in the following forms: criminal and administrative persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists as well as ordinary citizens; Internet access restriction affecting all citizens of the country by massively reducing the bandwidth of the national Internet traffic; targeted mobile and landline disconnections as well as interrupted Internet communications among opposition leaders and independent journalists in order to isolate them and stop any exchange of information; threats made by special services and law enforcement officers against representatives of independent local and international media, aiming to limit the spread of criticism and dissatisfaction with the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the hardened legislation regulating freedom of expression and information.

IRFS believes that all the restrictions on freedom of expression listed above are the result of recent public calls by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. As the situation regarding the new coronavirus epidemic worsened, both in the world and in Azerbaijan alike, President Aliyev, in his public addresses on March 10, 19 and April 17, 2020, talked about the possible need to isolate the members of opposition, while calling them and the civil society, enemies of Azerbaijan and the “fifth column” of foreign states. Furthermore, the President did not stop at harassing his critics inside the country; he also threatened those in exile, calling them “particularly dangerous elements that must be seriously combated”. President Aliyev further criticized the Council of Europe and the representatives of its institutions, calling all recent calls for respect of human rights “worthless scraps of paper” to which he and his government do not intend to listen to. In the wake of the president’s above mentioned announcements, members of parliament expressed full support for the president’s hostile speeches. The campaign of inciting hatred against dissent continued on pro-government media outlets acting as catalyzers of state propaganda and misinformation.

IRFS condemns the aggressive calls of the country’s leadership ordering Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies to fabricate multiple criminal charges against dissidents. On March 22, prominent member of the opposition and journalist, Tofig Yagublu, was arrested on trumped-up charges of hooliganism. A week later, on March 30, journalist and human rights activist, Elchin Mammad, was arrested on even more absurd criminal charges: theft. On April 20, the shortest trial in the history of modern Azerbaijan was held. In only 45 minutes Judge Aydin Karimov, following a political order, held a preparatory meeting, examined the case and sentenced opposition leader, Zamin Salaev, to 2 years 3 months of imprisonment for defamation and insulting a police officer, in the absence of his lawyer (the defendant’s lawyer was unable to make the trip from the capital to the region, where the trial took place, because to restrictions on movement between cities due to the quarantine regime).

In addition to the criminal prosecution of dissident critics, over the past month, the authorities have put under administrative arrest 4 freelance reporters: Ibragim Vazirova, Mirsahib Rakhiloglu, Natig Isbatov and Ismail Nadirli. They were accused of having violated the quarantine regime. However, they were simply carrying out their professional duties, which they had every right to, without any restrictions.
On the background of growing dissatisfaction with the actions and inactions of the government against the Covid-19 epidemic, the leader of the opposition, was de facto put under house arrest after a public call from the President of Azerbaijan. Chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Ali Kerimli, had his internet blocked and his landline and mobile phone network coverage disconnected so that he could not give interviews to local and international media outlets. Journalists who came to Ali Kerimli’s house in the past 10 days in order to find out the why the chairman was unreachable and interview him were subjected to threats by Azerbaijani law enforcement and special service agencies (impossible to conduct video or audio interviews because of the above mentioned internet blockage and phone disconnection). Representatives of the TURAN News Agency and Azerbaijani correspondent for “Voice of America”, Tapdyg Farhadoglu, also faced pressure from the authorities.

Azerbaijani authorities have also intensified the persecution of their critics currently in exile. According to the information made available to IRFS, the Azerbaijani special services threated with reprisal activists who use platforms like YouTube to host daily broadcasts harshly criticizing the authorities. Those who live in Western European countries or the United States receive threats of physical violence or kidnapping with further repatriation to Azerbaijan. Over the past few years alone, IRFS witnessed multiple cases of illegal extradition of critics of the government: at least 2 cases from Turkey, journalist Rauf Mirkadirov and former deputy Huseyn Abdullayev, composer and author of the sensational protest song “СУСМА” who received political asylum in Germany; 1 case of blogger Elvin Isaev from Ukraine (three months before his extradition, the Azerbaijani authorities sought his extradition from Russia, from where he was forced to leave for Ukraine); 1 case of abduction in Georgia where investigative journalist Afgan Muckhtarly was kidnapped on the streets of Tbilisi then secretly and illegally taken to Azerbaijan. Given the above mentioned cases, IRFS believes dissidents and critics of the authorities residing on the territory of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey are the most vulnerable and in need of support.

Over the past month, more than a hundred ordinary citizens have also faced threats and pressure from the authorities for criticizing the government’s response and the deteriorating epidemic situation in their online posts. Over 10 administrative cases were opened against social media users, as a result some citizens were illegally placed under administrative arrest for several weeks. For example, a resident of the city of Shamakh, Ikram Khudiyev, was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest for a satirical video in which he and his children ridiculed the Azerbaijani authorities through satire and namely suggesting that they are forced to eat grass in order not to starve now that the authorities stopped social benefits to their family.

The most flagrant case of punishment tied to freedom of speech, during the COVID-19 epidemic, is that of opposition activist Agil Khumbatov. The critic was illegally placed in an asylum and forced to undergo psychological treatment, like they did under the soviet regime to undesirable dissidents, for publicly criticizing President Aliyev.

“All above mentioned facts regarding freedom of speech violations are irrefutable evidence of pressure on dissidents in Azerbaijan, which is now aggravated by the deterioration of the situation with the COVID-19 epidemic in the country and in the region,” said Emin Huseynov, Executive Director of the IRFS. “The political reforms announced by President Aliyev are nothing more than imitations of reforms. For example, on April 23 2020 decisions of the Supreme Court Plenary Session to acquit former political prisoners Ilgar Mammadov and Rasul Jafarov, after many years of the defendants passing through local courts and even the European Court of Human Rights, cannot be considered an indicator of judicial reform. These same courts today, under order from higher up, and in less than an hour, can analyze the complaint of a state official against a citizen, find him guilty of defamation and sentence him to several years in prison. Furthermore, the recent pardon of inmates over the age of 65 because of the possible threat to their health is also not an act of humanity but a maneuver by which the authorities were able to partially mislead the international community, including the rapporteurs for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Azerbaijan. Among those released from prisons was General Akif Chovdarov, ancient head of management of the Ministry of National Security, whose name is widely known as one of the organizers of the high-profile political murder of journalist Elmar Huseynov. The obvious instigator of this crime is the current political elite of Azerbaijan who ordered it,” summed up Emin Huseynov.

Considering the authorities did not officially declare a state of emergency in connection with the new coronavirus epidemic and that a special quarantine regime cannot be a legitimate tool to restrict freedom of expression, IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately put an end to all of the above mentioned attacks on freedom of speech and to immediately release from prison all (over 120) political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, since their health and life are at risk because of a possible COVID-19 infection.

IRFS believes that the Azerbaijani authorities, represented by President Ilham Aliyev and his wife, First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva, under the pretense of a “valiant fight” against the new coronavirus epidemic, deliberately strengthen restrictions on freedom of expression and socio-political rights in order to prepare for the next anti-democratic referendum to amend the Constitution of Azerbaijan to modernize and improve the current family governing system to their advantage.

IRFS calls on the Western European countries, the United States and Canada to closely monitor the deteriorating situation with fundamental human rights in Azerbaijan amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and to implement all possible diplomatic and international law mechanisms to deter Azerbaijani authorities from further repressing their critics inside and outside the country.

IRFS also calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Director-General of UNESCO, the OSCE Special Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Director of OSCE ODIHR, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE and The European Parliament, within the framework of their mandates, to condemn the illegal actions of the Azerbaijani authorities, demand that Azerbaijan strictly complies with the country’s international obligations regarding the protection of freedom of expression and prevent the local authorities from restricting this freedom even during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

L’Institut pour la liberté et la sécurité des journalistes (ILSJ) condamne les autorités azerbaïdjanaises pour avoir lancé une campagne de répression à grande échelle contre les personnes les critiquant et d’avoir restreint la liberté d’expression en prétextant l’aggravation des mesures de sécurité contre la pandémie de COVID-19.

L’ILSJ condamne les tentatives illégales de plus en plus fréquentes des autorités pour restreindre la liberté d’expression en Azerbaïdjan et notamment: la persécution pénale et administrative des défenseurs des droits de l’homme, des journalistes et des militants politiques ainsi que des citoyens ordinaires; la restriction d’accès à Internet en réduisant la bande passante du trafic national affectant tous les citoyens du pays; les déconnexions ciblées des mobiles et des lignes fixes ainsi que les communications Internet interrompues entre les dirigeants de l’opposition et les journalistes indépendants afin d’isoler les premiers et de mettre fin à tout échange d’informations; les menaces des services spéciaux et des forces de l’ordre contre des représentants indépendants de médias locaux et internationaux, visant à limiter la propagation des critiques et du mécontentement du peuple face à la réponse du gouvernement contre la pandémie (COVID-19) et contre la législation renforcée réglementant la liberté d’expression et d’information.

L’ILSJ estime que toutes les restrictions à la liberté d’expression énumérées ci-dessus sont le résultat des récents appels publics du président de l’Azerbaïdjan, Ilham Aliyev. Alors que la situation concernant l’épidémie du COVID-19 empire, à la fois dans le monde ainsi qu’en Azerbaïdjan, le Président Aliyev, dans ses discours publics du 10, 19 mars et du 17 avril 2020, a évoqué la nécessité éventuelle d’isoler les membres de l’opposition. Il continue en les qualifiant, ainsi que la société civile, d’ennemis de l’Azerbaïdjan et de la « cinquième colonne » des États étrangers. En outre, le Président n’a pas cessé de harceler les dissidents à l’intérieur du pays; il a également menacé ceux en exil, les qualifiant d ‘«éléments particulièrement dangereux qui doivent être sérieusement combattus». Le Président Aliyev a également critiqué le Conseil de l’Europe et les représentants de ses institutions, qualifiant tous les appels récents au respect des droits de l’homme de «bouts de papier sans valeur» que lui et son gouvernement n’ont pas l’intention d’appliquer. À la suite des annonces du Président, les parlementaires lui ont exprimé leur soutien. La campagne d’incitation à la haine contre les opposants s’est poursuivie sur les médias pro-gouvernementaux agissant comme un catalyseur de la propagande étatique et de désinformation.

L’ILSJ condamne les appels agressifs de la direction du pays ordonnant aux forces de l’ordre azerbaïdjanais de fabriquer des accusations criminelles contre les dissidents. Le 22 mars, Tofig Yagublu, membre éminent de l’opposition et journaliste, a été arrêté pour de fausses charges de hooliganisme. Une semaine plus tard, le 30 mars, le journaliste et militant des droits de l’homme, Elchin Mammad, a été arrêté pour des accusations criminelles encore plus absurdes : de vol. Le 20 avril, le procès le plus court de l’histoire moderne de l’Azerbaïdjan a eu lieu. En l’espace de seulement 45 minutes, à la suite d’un ordre politique, le juge Aydin Karimov a tenu une audience préparatoire, a examiné l’affaire et a condamné le membre de l’opposition, Zamin Salaev, en l’absence de son avocat, à 2 ans et 3 mois de prison pour diffamation et injure contre la police (l’avocat de l’accusé n’a pas pu quitter la capitale pour se rendre en région où le procès a eu lieu, en raison des restrictions de circulation mis en vigueur à cause de l’épidémie de COVID-19).

Outre les poursuites pénales engagées contre les dissidents, les autorités ont mis en arrestation administrative, au cours du mois dernier, 4 journalistes indépendants: Ibragim Vazirova, Mirsahib Rakhiloglu, Natig Isbatov et Ismail Nadirli. Ils étaient accusés d’avoir violé le régime de quarantaine alors qu’en fait ils ne faisaient que leurs devoirs professionnels, de plein droit.

Dans le contexte d’insatisfaction croissante face aux actions et inactions du gouvernement contre l’épidémie de Covid-19, le chef de l’opposition a été de facto assigné à domicile après un appel public du président azerbaïdjanais. Le président du Parti du Front populaire d’Azerbaïdjan, Ali Kerimli, a vu son Internet bloqué et sa couverture de réseau fixe et de téléphonie mobile déconnectée, de sorte qu’il ne puisse pas accorder d’interviews aux médias locaux et internationaux. Les journalistes qui sont venus au domicile d’Ali Kerimli au cours des 10 derniers jours afin de savoir pourquoi celui-ci ne pouvait être joint et interviewer ont été illégalement menacés par les forces de l’ordre azerbaïdjanaises et les services spéciaux. Des représentants de l’agence de presse TURAN et le correspondant azerbaïdjanais de « Voie de l’Amerique », Tapdyg Farhadoglu, ont également subi des pressions de la part des autorités.

Les autorités azerbaïdjanaises ont également intensifié la persécution de leurs opposants actuellement en exil. Selon les informations mises à la disposition de l’ILSJ, les services spéciaux azerbaïdjanais ont menacé avec des actes de représailles les journalistes et défenseurs des droits de l’homme qui utilisent des plateformes comme YouTube pour mener des émissions quotidiennes critiquant sévèrement les autorités. Ceux qui vivent dans les pays d’Europe occidentale ou aux États-Unis reçoivent des menaces de violence physique ou d’enlèvement avec rapatriement en Azerbaïdjan. Rien qu’au cours des dernières années, l’ILSJ a témoigné de plusieurs cas d’extradition illégale de dissidents au gouvernement: au moins 2 cas en Turquie, le journaliste Rauf Mirkadirov et l’ancien député Huseyn Abdullayev, compositeur et auteur de la sensationnelle chanson de protestation «СУСМА» qui a reçu asile politique en Allemagne; 1 cas en Ukraine, le blogueur Elvin Isaev (trois mois avant son extradition, les autorités azerbaïdjanaises ont demandé son extradition de la Russie, d’où il a été contraint de partir pour l’Ukraine); et 1 cas d’enlèvement en Géorgie où le journaliste d’investigation Afgan Muckhtarly a été enlevé dans les rues de Tbilissi puis emmené secrètement et illégalement en Azerbaïdjan. Compte tenu des cas susmentionnés, l’ILSJ estime que les dissidents et les opposants aux autorités azerbaïdjanaises résidant sur les territoires russe, ukrainien, géorgien et turque sont les plus vulnérables et ont besoin de soutien.

Au cours du mois dernier, plus d’une centaine de citoyens ordinaires ont également fait l’objet de menaces et de pressions de la part des autorités pour avoir critiqué la réponse du gouvernement à la pandémie du COVID-19 et à la détérioration de la situation épidémique dans leurs publications en ligne. Plus de 10 affaires administratives ont été ouvertes contre des utilisateurs de réseaux sociaux, certains citoyens ont été mis en détention administrative illégale pendant plusieurs semaines. Par exemple, un habitant de la ville de Shamakh, Ikram Khudiyev, a été condamné à 10 jours d’arrestation administrative pour une vidéo satirique dans laquelle lui et ses enfants ont ridiculisé les autorités azerbaïdjanaises afin de dénoncer la fin des prestations sociales dispensées.

Le cas de punition le plus flagrant lié à la liberté d’expression, lors de l’épidémie du COVID-19, est celui du membre de l’opposition Agil Khumbatov. L’opposant a été illégalement placé dans un asile et contraint de subir un traitement psychologique pour avoir publiquement critiqué le Président Aliyev.

« Tous les faits mentionnés ci-dessus concernant les violations de la liberté d’expression sont des preuves irréfutables de la pression exercée sur les dissidents en Azerbaïdjan, qui est maintenant aggravée par la détérioration de la situation avec l’épidémie de COVID-19 dans le pays et dans la région », a déclaré Emin Huseynov, directeur exécutif de l’ILSJ. « Les réformes politiques annoncées par le Président Aliyev ne sont que des imitations de réformes. Par exemple, les décisions prisent le 23 avril en session plénière par la Cour suprême, d’acquitter les défenseurs Ilgar Mammadov et Rasul Jafarov (anciens prisonniers politiques) après de nombreuses années de litige devant les tribunaux locaux et même devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme, ne peuvent être considérés comme un indicateur de la réforme judiciaire. Ces mêmes tribunaux, peuvent aujourd’hui, sur ordre et en moins d’une heure, analyser la plainte d’un fonctionnaire de l’Etat contre un citoyen, le déclarer coupable de diffamation et le condamner à plusieurs années de prison. En outre, la récente grâce accordée aux détenus de plus de 65 ans en raison de la menace potentielle à leur santé n’est pas non plus un acte d’humanité mais une manœuvre par laquelle les autorités ont pu partiellement induire en erreur la communauté internationale, y compris les rapporteurs de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe sur l’Azerbaïdjan. Parmi les personnes libérées des prisons figure le général Akif Chovdarov, ancien chef de la direction du ministère de la Sécurité nationale, dont le nom est largement connu comme l’un des organisateurs du meurtre politique très médiatisé du journaliste Elmar Huseynov. L’instigateur évident de ce crime est l’élite politique actuelle de l’Azerbaïdjan qui l’a ordonné.», résume Emin Huseynov.

Considérant que les autorités n’ont pas officiellement déclaré l’état d’urgence en rapport avec l’épidémie du COVID-19 et qu’un régime spécial de quarantaine ne peut pas être un outil légitime pour restreindre la liberté d’expression, l’ILSJ appelle les autorités azerbaïdjanaises à mettre fin immédiatement à toutes les atteintes à la liberté d’expression susmentionnées et demande la libération immédiate de tous les prisonniers politiques (plus de 120), car leur santé et leur vie sont menacées en raison d’une éventuelle infection au COVID-19.

L’ILSJ estime que les autorités azerbaïdjanaises, représentées par le Président Ilham Aliyev et son épouse, Premier Vice-Président Mehriban Aliyeva, sous le prétexte d’une « vaillante lutte » contre l’épidémie du COVID-19, renforcent délibérément les restrictions contre la liberté d’expression et contre les droits sociopolitiques afin de préparer le prochain référendum antidémocratique pour modifier la Constitution de l’Azerbaïdjan afin d’améliorer le système actuel de gouvernance familiale à leur profit.

L’ILSJ fait appelle aux pays d’Europe occidentale, aux États-Unis et au Canada à surveiller de près la détérioration de la situation des droits fondamentaux de l’homme en Azerbaïdjan en ce contexte de pandémie mondiale de COVID-19 et à mettre en œuvre tous les mécanismes diplomatiques et de droit international possibles pour dissuader les autorités azerbaïdjanaises de réprimer davantage les dissidents à l’intérieur ainsi qu’à l’extérieur du pays.

L’ILSJ fait également appelle au Haut-Commissaire des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme, au Commissaire aux droits de l’homme du Conseil de l’Europe, au Directeur général de l’UNESCO, au Représentant spécial de l’OSCE pour la liberté des médias, au Directeur du BIDDH de l’OSCE, au Secrétaire général du Conseil de l’Europe, au Secrétaire Général de l’OSCE, à l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe, à l’Assemblée parlementaire de l’OSCE et au Parlement européen, dans le cadre de leurs mandats, à condamner les actions illégales des autorités azerbaïdjanaises, d’exiger que l’Azerbaïdjan respecte strictement les obligations internationales du pays en matière de protection de la liberté d’expression et d’empêcher les autorités locales de restreindre ladite liberté même pendant la pandémie de nouvel coronavirus.

Институт свободы и безопасности репортёров осуждает власти Азербайджана за начало масштабных репрессий против критиков и ограничения свободы выражения на фоне обострения проблем, вызванных пандемией нового коронавируса.

ИСБР считает абсолютно незаконными все чаще учащающиеся явные попытки властей ограничить свободу выражения в Азербайджане в виде: сфабрикованных уголовных и административных преследований правозащитников, журналистов и общественно-политических активистов, а также простых граждан, ограничение подключения к интернету со стороны всех граждан страны путем умышленного массового снижения пропускной способности национального интернет трафика, точечное отключение мобильной и стационарной телефонной и интернет связи у лидеров оппозиции и независимых журналистов с целью технологического и информационного изолирования, угроз спецслужб и правоохранителей представителям независимых местных и международных СМИ с целью ограничения распространения критики и недовольства вызванной коронавирусной пандемией, ужесточения законодательства регулирующего свободу выражения и информации.

ИСБР считает, что все вышеперечисленные виды ограничения свободы выражения являются результатом недавних публичных призывов президента Азербайджана о необходимости признания врагами всех инакомыслящих и необходимости их принудительной изоляции. Так во время ухудшения ситуации с коронавирусом как в мире так и в Азербайджане в своих публичных видео-обращениях 10 и 19 марта, а также 17 апреля 2020 года Ильхам Алиев публично выражал возможную необходимость изолирования представителей оппозиции, одновременно называя оппозицию и гражданское общество врагами государства и пятой колонной иностранных государств. Не ограничиваясь публичной травлей своих критиков внутри страны, президент обрушивался с угрозами на своих критиков в изгнании, назвав их особенно опасными элементами, с которыми необходимо серьезно бороться. Алиев также подверг критике Совет Европы и представителей его институтов, назвав все недавние призывы по соблюдению прав человека никчемным клочками бумаги, к которым он и его власть не намерена прислушиваться. Сразу же вслед за президентом угрозы и оскорбления в адрес критиков власти последовали от членов парламента, которые выразили полную поддержку агрессивно-враждебным выступлениям президента. Кампания разжигания ненависти против инакомыслия продолжили и проправительственные СМИ, выступающие в виде рупора государственной пропаганды и дезинформации.

ИСБР считает, что прислушавшись к агрессивным призывам руководства страны, правоохранительные органы Азербайджана исполняя политический заказ путем сфабрикованных уголовным обвинений в хулиганстве 22 марта арестовали одного из ведущих общественных критиков власти, известного оппозиционера и журналиста Тофика Ягублу, неделю спустя 30 марта по еще более абсурдным уголовным обвинениям в краже был арестован журналист и правозащитник Эльчин Мамед. По обвинению в клевете и оскорблении полицейского 20 апреля в течении 45 минут был проведен самый короткий суд за всю истории современного Азербайджана, когда судья Айдын Керимов исполняя политический заказ провел подготовительное заседание, рассмотрел дело и вынес обвинительный приговор беззащитному (адвокат подсудимого не смог приехать из столицы в регион где проходил суд из за ограничений на передвижение между городами в связи с режимом карантина) оппозиционеру Замину Салаеву, приговорив его к 2 годам 3 месяцам тюремного заключения.

За последний месяц помимо уголовных преследований инакомыслящих критиков, власти подвергли многодневным административным арестам 4 фриланс-репортеров Ибрагима Вазирова, Мирсахиба Рахилоглу, Натига Исбатова и Исмаила Надирли под предлогом нарушения ими карантинного режима, в то время как журналисты исполняли свои профессиональные обязанности и имели полное право и без каких-либо ограничений осуществлять свою деятельность.

На фоне растущего недовольства действиями и бездействиями властей из-за последствий распространения коронавируса после публичного призыва президента Азербайджана под негласный домашний арест был переведен лидер оппозиции, председатель партии Народного Фронта Азербайджана Али Керимли, которому отключили стационарную и мобильную телефонную связь в квартире, чтобы он не мог давать интервью местным и международным СМИ. Многие журналисты, которые за последние 10 дней пришли в дом к Али Керимли с целью ознакомления причин его информационной блокады и записи с ним видео-интервью (так как не могли взять аудио интервью по телефону или видео интервью по Скайп), были подвергнуты незаконным угрозам со стороны правоохранительных органов и спецслужб Азербайджана. С давлением властей также столкнулся представитель информационного агентсва ТУРАН и азербайджанской службы Голоса Америки Тапдыг Фархадоглу.

Власти Азербайджана также усилили преследования своих критиков в изгнании. Так по имеющейся в распоряжении ИСБР информации, спецслужбы Азербайджана угрожают расправой активистам, которые посредством видео хостинга Ютуб ежедневно в жесткой форме критикуют власти. Тем, кто проживает в странах Западной Европы и США поступают угрозы физической расправы или же похищения с дальнейшим вывозом в Азербайджан. Учитывая то, что за последние несколько лет ИСБР засвидетельствовал как минимум 2 случая незаконной экстрадиции критиков власти из Турции в Азербайджана (по делу журналиста Рауфа Миркадирова и экс-депутата, композитора и автора нашумевшей протесной песни СУСМА Гусейна Абдуллаева, получившего политическое убежище в Германии), 1 незаконную экстрадицию блогера Эльвина Исаева из Украины (тремя месяцами ранее власти Азербайджана также добивались его экстрадиции из России откуда он вынужден был уехать в Украину) и один случай похищение в Грузии журналиста- расследователя Афгана Мухтарлы, которого тайно и незаконно вывезли в Азербайджан , критики властей, которые проживают на территории России, Украины, Грузии и Турции находятся в наименее уязвимом положении и нуждаются в поддержке.

За последний месяц с угрозой давления из-за критических постов связанных с ухудшением положения населения столкнулись свыше сотни рядовых граждан. Было открыто свыше 10 административных дел против пользователей социальных сетей, в результате которых людей незаконно поместили под административный арест на несколько недель. Так, к примеру, жителя города Шамаха Икрама Худиева приговорили к 10 дневному административному аресту за сатирическое видео, в котором вместе со своими детьми высмеивает с помощью сатиры власти Азербайджана за то, что власти оставили его семью без социального пособия, из-за чего он и его дети вынуждены есть траву, чтобы не умереть от голода.

Самым же вопиющим случаем наказания критика власти во время коронавируса является случай активиста оппозиции Агиля Хумбатова, которого за его публичную критику президента Ильхама Алиева также как ко времена Советского Союза поступали с неугодными диссидентами, незаконно поместили в сумасшедший дом на принудительное психологическое лечение.

«Все вышеуказанные в заявлении нашей организации факты давления на свободу выражения являются неопровержимыми доказательствами поствыборного давления на инакомыслие в Азербайджане, которое подстегивается ухудшающейся эпидемиологической ситуацией в стране и в регионе»- отметил исполнительный директор ИСБР Эмин Гусейнов. «Оглашённые президентом Алиевым политические реформы являются ни чем иным как имитацией реформ. К примеру, сегодняшнее решения Пленума Верховного Суда по делу бывших узников совести Ильгара Мамедова и Расула Джафарова, которые были оправданы спустя долгие годы скитаний в местных судах и в Европейском Суде по Правам Человека, нельзя считать показателем реформирования судебной системы, ибо эти же суды сегодня по указу сверху менее чем за час могут рассмотреть жалобу госчиновника против несогласного с произволом гражданина и приговорить его к нескольким годам тюрьмы, признав виновным в диффамации. Недавнее помилование лиц старше 65 лет из-за угрозы их здоровью также не является актом гуманизма, которым власти смогли частично ввести в заблуждение международное сообщество, в том числе и докладчиков парламентской ассамблеи Совета Европы по Азербайджану. В числе освобождённых из тюрем лиц старше 65 лет оказался генерал МНБ Акиф Човдаров, имя которого широко известно как одного из организаторов убийства самого громкого политического убийства журналиста Эльмара Гусейнова, очевидным заказчиком которого и является действующая политическая элита Азербайджана» – подытожил Эмин Гусейнов.

Учитывая то, что власти официально не объявляли действия чрезвычайного положения в связи с коронавирусом, и то, что особый карантинный режим не может являться законным инструментом ограничения свободы выражения, ИСБР призывает власти Азербайджана немедленно положить конец всем вышеперечисленным нападкам на свободу слова, а также немедленно освободить из тюрем всех без исключения (свыше 120) политических заключенных и узников совести, так как их здоровью и жизни угрожает высокий риска заражения коронавирусом.

ИСБР считает, что власти Азербайджана в лице президента Ильхама Алиева и его супруги первого вице-президента Мехрибан Алиевой, прикрываясь доблестной борьбой с коронавирусом, намеренно закручивают гайки ограничивая свободу выражения и социально политические права с целью негласной подготовки к очередному антидемократичному референдуму по изменениям в Конституцию Азербайджана, целью которого является создание видимости по модернизации и усовершенствованию действующей семейной системы управления.

ИСБР призывает Страны Западной Европы США и Канаду пристально отслеживать ухудшающуюся на фоне пандемии коронавируса ситуацию с фундаментальными правами человека в Азербайджане и предпринимать все возможные дипломатические и международно правовые механизмы для сдерживания властей Азербайджана от репрессий против своих критиков внутри и за пределами страны.

ИСБР также призывает Верховного комиссара ООН по правам человека, Комиссара Совета Европы по правам человека, генерального директора ЮНЕСКО, Спецпредставителя ОБСЕ по Свободе Слова, Гендиректора БДИЧ ОБСЕ, Генерального Секретаря Совета Европы, Герального Секретаря ОБСЕ, а также Парламентскую ассамблею Совета Европы, Парламентскую Ассамблею ОБСЕ и Европейский Парламент осудить в рамках своих мандатов незаконные действия властей Азербайджана и потребовать от них беспрекословного соблюдения международных обязательств страны в сфере защиты свободы выражения и недопущения их ограничений даже во время угрозы распространения эпидемии нового коронавируса.

Reportyorların Azadlıq və Təhlükəsizlik İnstitutu Azərbaycan hakimiyyətini tənqidçilərə qarşı genişmiqyaslı repressiyalara başlamaqda və yeni koronavirusun pandemiyası nəticəsində yaranan problemlərin kəskinləşməsi fonunda ifadə azadlığını məhdudlaşdırmaqda qınayır.

RATİ hakimiyyət orqanlarının Azərbaycanda ifadə azadlığını insan hüquqları müdafiəçilərinin, jurnalistlərin və siyasi fəalların, həmçinin sadə vətəndaşların uydurma cinayət və inzibati məsuliyyətə cəlb edilməsi, internet trafikinin keçirtmə qabiliyyətinin aşağı salınması ilə ölkə vətəndaşlarının internetə qoşulmaq imkanının məhdudlaşdırılması,
texnoloji və informasiya təcridi məqsədi ilə müxalifət liderləri və müstəqil jurnalistlərin mobil və şəhər telefonu və internet rabitəsinin kəsilməsi, xüsusi xidmət orqanlarının və hüquq-mühafizə orqanlarının əməkdaşlarının koronavirus pandemiyasından yaranan tənqid və narazılığın yayılmasını məhdudlaşdırmaq üçün müstəqil yerli və beynəlxalq media nümayəndələrinə qarşı təhdidləri, ifadə və məlumat azadlığını tənzimləyən qanunvericiliyin sərtləşdirilməsi yolu ilə
məhdudlaşdırmaq cəhdlərini tamamilə qanunsuz hesab edir.

RATİ hesab edir ki, yuxarida sadalanan ifadə azadlığına qoyulan məhdudiyyətlərin hamısı Azərbaycan prezidentinin bütün müxalif fikirliləri düşmən kimi tanıması və məcburi təcrid olunmasının vacibliyi ilə bağlı son çağırışlarının nəticəsidir.

Beləliklə, həm dünyada, həm də Azərbaycanda koronavirusla bağlı vəziyyət pisləşdiyi bir vaxtda, 10 və 19 mart və 17 aprel 2020-ci il tarixli ictimaiyyətə video-müraciətlərində İlham Əliyev müxalifəti və vətəndaş cəmiyyətini dövlətin düşməni və xarici dövlətlərin beşinci kalonu adlandırmaqla eyni zamanda müxalifəti təcrid etməyin zəruriliyini açıq şəkildə bildirdi.

Ölkə daxilindəki tənqidçilərini ictimai şəkildə təhqir etməklə məhdudlaşmayan prezident, mühacirətdə olan tənqidçilərini hədələyərək onları ciddi şəkildə mübarizə aparılmalı olan təhlükəli elementlər adlandırdı.

Əliyev, eyni zamanda, Avropa Şurasını və onun institutularının nümayəndələrini tənqid edərək, insan haqlarına hörmətlə bağlı bu yaxınlarda olan bütün çağırışlarını lazımsız kağız parçaları adlandırıb və bildirib ki, nə o, nə də onun hakimiyyət onları dinləmək niyyətində deyil.

Prezidentdən dərhal sonra hakimiyyətin tənqidçilərinə qarşı təhdidlər və təhqirlər prezidentin aqressiv-düşmənçilik çıxışlarını tam dəstəkləyən parlament üzvlərindən gəldi.

Fərqli fikrə qarşı nifrət oyatma kampaniyasını dövlət təbliğatının və dezinformasiyanın rupori kimi çıxış edən hakimiyyətyönlü KİV-lər də davam etdirdi.

RATİ hesab edir ki, ölkə rəhbərliyinin aqressiv müraciətlərini nəzərə alaraq siyasi sifariş icra edən Azərbaycan hüquq-mühafizə orqanları martın 22-də hökumətin aparıcı ictimai tənqidçilərindən biri, tanınmış müxalifətçi və jurnalist Tofiq Yaqublunu uydurma xuliqanlıq ittihamı, bir həftə sonra – martın 30-da isə daha absurd oğurluq ittihamları jurnalist və hüquq müdafiəçisi Elçin Məmmədi həbs ediblər.

Aprelin 20-də 45 dəqiqə ərzində böhtan və polisin təhqir edilməsi ittihamı ilə müasir Azərbaycanın tarixində ən qısa məhkəmə iclası keçirildi, siyasi sifarişi yerinə yetirən hakim hazırlıq iclası keçirdi, işə baxdı və müdafiəsiz qalan (müttəhimin vəkili karantin səbəbindən şəhərlər arasında hərəkətə qoyulaт məhdudiyyət səbəbindən paytaxtdan rayona gedə bilmədi) müxalifətçi Zamin Salaevə 2 il 3 ay həbs cəzası verdi.

Son bir ayda fərqli fikirli tənqidçilərin cinayət məsuliyyətinə cəlb edilməsi ilə yanaşı peşə vəzifələrini icra edərkən karantin rejimini pozmaq bəhanəsi ilə 4 müstəqil reportyor İbrahim Vəzirov, Mirsahib Rahiloğlu, Natiq İsbatov və İsmayıl Nadirliyə inzibati həbs cəzası erilib, baxmayaraq ki, jurnalistlər peşə fəaliyyətlərini həyata keçirirdi və bunu heç bir məhdudiyyət olmadan etmək hüququna malik idilər.

Azərbaycan Prezidentinin açıq çağırışından sonra koronavirusun yayılmasının fəsadları səbəbindən hakimiyyətin hərəkət və hərəkətsizliyindən artan narazılığın fonunda, Azərbaycan Xalq Cəbhəsi Partiyasının lideri, müxalifət lideri Əli Kərimli qeyri-rəsmi ev dustaqı edilib, onun yerli və beynəlxalq mətbuata müsahibə verə bilməməsi üçün mobil və ev telefonu söndürülüb.

Son 10 gündə informasiya blokadasının səbəbləri ilə tanış olmaq və onunla video-müsahibə hazırlamaq üçün Əli Kərimlinin evinə gələn bir çox jurnalist (telefon və ya Skype-da video müsahibələr edə bilmədikləri üçün) hüquq-mühafizə orqanları və xüsusi xidmət orqanları tərəfindən qeyri-qanuni təhdidlərə məruz qalıb.

TURAN xəbər agentliyinin və Amerikanın Səsi-nin Azərbaycan xidmətinin nümayəndəsi Tapdıq Fərhadoğlu da hakimiyyətin təzyiqi ilə üzləşib.

Azərbaycan hakimiyyəti mühacirətdəki tənqidçilərinin təqiblərini də gücləndirib.

Belə ki, RATİ-də olan məlumata görə, Azərbaycan xüsusi xidmət orqanları YouTube vasitəsilə hər gün hakimiyyəti sərt şəkildə tənqid edən fəalları cəzalandırmaqla təhdid edir.

Qərbi Avropa ölkələrində və ABŞ-da yaşayanlar fiziki zorakılıq və ya qaçırılaraq Azərbaycana gətirilmək hədələri ilə üzləşir.

Nəzərə alsaq ki, son bir neçə ildə RATİ-yə hakimiyyətin tənqidçilərinin Türkiyədən ən azı iki (jurnalist Rauf Mirqədirovun və səs-küyə səbəb olan SUSMA etiraz mahnısının müəllifi, bəstəkar, eks-deputat, Almaniyada siyasi sığınacaq almış Hüseyn Abdullayevin işi), Ukraynadan bloger Elvin İsayevin (üç ay əvvəl Azərbaycan hakimiyyəti onun Rusiyadan ekstradisiyasını istədi, o da Ukraynaya getməyə məcbur oldu) qanunsuz ekstradisiyalarını, araşdırmaçı jurnalist Əfqan Muxtarlının Gürcüstanda oğurlanaraq gizli və qanunsuz olaraq Azərbaycana aparılması faktları məlumdur, o zaman Rusiya, Ukrayna, Gürcüstan və Türkiyədə yaşayan hakimiyyətin tənqidçiləri mürəkkəb vəziyyətdədirlər və dəstəyə ehtiyac duyurlar.
Son bir ay ərzində yüzdən çox adi vətəndaş əhalinin vəziyyətinin pisləşməsi ilə əlaqədar tənqidi fikirlər yazdığına görə təzyiq təhlükəsi ilə üzləşib.

Sosial şəbəkələrin istifadəçilərinə qarşı 10-dan çox inzibati iş açıldı, nəticədə insanlar bir neçə həftəliyə qanunsuz olaraq inzibati qaydada həbs edildi.

Belə ki, məsələn, Şamaxı şəhər sakini İkram Xudiyev ailəsinin sosial yardımsız qalmasını və uşaqları ilə birgə aclıqdan ölməmək üçün ot yeməyə məcbur olduqlarını əks etdirək satirik video vasitəsilə hakimiyyəti tənqid etdiyinə görə 10 günlük inzibati həbs cəzasına məhkum edilib.

Koronavirus dövründə hakimiyyətin bir tənqidçisini cəzalandırmasının ən biabirçı üsulu Aqil Humbatovla bağlı haldır, Prezident İlham Əliyevi açıq şəkildə tənqid etdiyi görə o sovet dövründə arzuolunmaz müxaliflərlə rəftar edildiyi kimi qanunsuz olaraq dəlixanaya salınıb.

“Təşkilatımızın bəyanatında göstərilən ifadə azadlığına edilən bütün təzyiq faktları Azərbaycanda müxalif fikrə seçkidən sonrakı təzyiqlərin inkaredilməz sübutudur, ölkədə və bölgədə pisləşən epidemioloji vəziyyət durumu bir qədər də ağırlaşdırır”, – RATİ-nin icraçı direktoru Emin Hüseynov qeyd edib.

“Prezident Əliyevin elan etdiyi siyasi islahatlar islahatların imitasiyasından başqa bir şey deyil. Məsələn, Ali Məhkəmənin Plenumunun illərdi yerli məhkəmələrdə və Avropa İnsan Hüquqları Məhkəməsində işlərinə baxılan keçmiş vicdan məhbusları İlqar Məmmədov və Rəsul Cəfərovla bağlı bəraət qərarı məhkəmə islahatının göstəricisi hesab edilə bilməz, çünki həmin məhkəmələr yuxarıdan gələn bir əmrlə bir saatdan az müddətdə hansısa məmurun özbaşınalıqla razılaşmayan vətəndaşa qarşı şikayətinə baxaraq onu diffamasiyada təqsirkar bilərək bir neçə il müddətinə həbs cəzasına məhkum edə bilər.

Bir müddət əvvəl yaşı 65-dən yuxarı olan insanların səhhətlərinə təhlükə yarandığı üçün əfv edilməsi humanizm aktı deyil, bununla hakimiyyət beynəlxalq birliyi, o cümlədən Avropa Şurası Parlament Assambleyasının Azərbaycan üzrə məruzəçilərini qismən çaşdıra bilib. Yaşı 65-dən yuxarı olan və həbsxanadan azad edilənlər arasında MTN generalı Akif Covdarov da var, o siyasi elitanın sifarişi ilə həyata keçirilən və ən səs-küylü siyasi qətl olan Elmar Hüseynovun qətlinin təşkilatçılarından biri kimi tanınır”, – deyə Emin Hüseynov fikrini tamamlayıb.

Səlahiyyətli orqanların koronavirusla əlaqədar olaraq fövqəladə vəziyyət elan etmədiyini və xüsusi bir karantin rejiminin ifadə azadlığını məhdudlaşdıran qanuni bir vasitə olmadığını nəzərə alaraq, RATİ Azərbaycan hakimiyyətini söz azadlığına yuxarıda göstərilən bütün hücumlara dərhal son qoymağa və istisnasız olaraq bütün siyasi və vicdan məhbuslarını (120-dən çox) dərhal azad etməyə çağırır, çünki onların sağlamlıqlarına təhlükə var və koronavirus infeksiyasına yoluxmaq riski yüksəkdir.

RATİ hesab edir ki, prezident İlham Əliyev və xanımı, birinci vitse-prezident Mehriban Əliyevanın timsalında Azərbaycan hakimiyyəti koronavirusa qarşı mübarizə pərdəsi altında mövcud ailənin idarəetmə sisteminin modernləşdirilməsi və və təkmilləşdirilməsi görüntüsünü yaratmaq məqsədilə Azərbaycan Konstitusiyasına dəyişiklik edilməsi niyyətilə növbəti anti-demokratik referenduma gizli hazırlaşmaq üçün ifadə azadlığını və ictimai-siyasi hüquqları daha çox məhdudlaşdırır.

RATİ Qərbi Avropa ölkələrini, ABŞ və Kanadanı koronavirus pandemiyası şəraitində Azərbaycanda əsas insan hüquqları ilə bağlı pisləşən vəziyyəti yaxından izləməyə və Azərbaycan hakimiyyətini ölkə daxilində və xaricində tənqidçilərini repressiyalardan çəkindirmək üçün bütün mümkün diplomatik və beynəlxalq hüquqi mexanizmləri işə salmağa çağırır.

RATİ eyni zamanda, BMT-nin İnsan Hüquqları üzrə Ali Komissarlığını, Avropa Şurasının İnsan Hüquqları üzrə Komissarını, YUNESKO-nun Baş direktoru, ATƏT-in Söz Azadlığı üzrə Xüsusi Nümayəndəsini, ATƏT-nin DİİHB-un Baş Katibini, Avropa Şurasının Baş Katibini, ATƏT Baş Katibini və Avropa Şurası Parlament Assambleyasını, ATƏT Parlament Assambleyasını və Avropa Parlamentini öz səlahiyyətləri çərçivəsində Azərbaycan hakimiyyətinin qanunsuz hərəkətlərini pisləməyə və onlardan ölkənin ifadə azadlıqlarının qorunması sahəsində beynəlxalq öhdəliklərinə ciddi əməl etməyi və hətta yeni koronavirus epidemiyasının yayılması təhlükəsi zamanı onların məhdudlaşdırılmasına imkan verməməyi tələb etməyə çağırır.