INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

January 12th, 2009
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the lawsuit filed against Institute for Peace and Democracy Director Leyla Yunus by Minister of Interior Ramil Usubov and considers this step the beginning of a campaign of repression to silence human rights defenders.

On 13 January Internal Minister Ramil Usubov filed a lawsuit against Institute for Peace and Democracy Director Leyla Yunus in the Nasimi District Court demanding that she “be brought to responsibility and refute slanderous information that was damaging to honor and dignity.” A preliminary hearing on this case has been scheduled to take place on 23 January at 3:00 p.m.

It is indicated in the lawsuit signed by the minister that on 3 December 2008 L. Yunus slandered Internal Affairs Ministry during her interview – “Most of the time Azerbaijani Courts adopt illegal and unfounded decisions on the issues related to the defense of human rights and basic freedoms” (http://www.day.az/news/society/139055.html) – to the website “day.az.” The minister, claiming that the interview was damaging to the business image of the police, asked Leyla Yunus to issue a refutation and pay 100,000 AZN compensation in moral damages.

IRFS considers that with the lawsuit against Leyla Yunus, the government wants to stifle the voice of human rights defenders and other civil society representatives who are very critical of the government. IRFS evaluates the actions against human rights defenders, the illegal imprisonment of five journalists, the ban of the broadcasting of foreign radios in Azerbaijan, the desire of making antidemocratic changes to the Constitution of Azerbaijan as a serious blow to the international image of Azerbaijan and future development of our country.

IRFS calls on Ramil Usubov to rescind his lawsuit against Leyla Yunus and demands that the Azerbaijani government respect human rights.

IRFS calls on the international community to ask the Azerbaijani government to fulfill its commitments in the area of freedom of speech and human rights.