IRFS STATEMENT: IMPUNITY FOR THE MURDER OF JOURNALIST ELMAR HUSEYNOV CONTINUES TO CRUSH FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN AZERBAIJAN

March 2nd, 2020

IRFS STATEMENT: IMPUNITY FOR THE MURDER OF JOURNALIST ELMAR HUSEYNOV CONTINUES TO CRUSH FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN AZERBAIJAN

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to put an end to impunity in the case of the famous journalist Elmar Huseynov, killed 15 years ago, and to end the policy of intolerance towards freedom of speech.

An ardent critic of the current government, editor-in-chief of the most popular independent magazine, Monitor, Elmar Huseynov, was shot dead on the threshold of his own home on March 2, 2005. Neither the killers, nor those who ordered this high-profile political assassination, have been held accountable.

Today, on the day of the assassination of Elmar, IRFS reiterates and reminds the Azerbaijani and the international community that the responsibility for investigating the murder lies entirely with the current authorities in Azerbaijan.

In April 2005, Ilham Aliyev, during his meeting with the then OSCE Special Representative for Freedom of the Media, Miklós Haraszti, assured the latter that Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies would do everything in their power to solve the case as soon as possible. On the same period, during another meeting with the then Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Ménard, President Ilham Aliyev also assured him that the authorities would soon bring those responsible for the murder to justice. Ilham Aliyev also met with Elmar’s father, Sabir Huseynov, 40 days after the murder took place and assured him that the investigation into the crime was under his personal control and that those responsible for the death of his son would not go unpunished.

“Despite at least three public promises Ilham Aliyev made himself and numerous promises of the heads of law enforcement agencies of Azerbaijan, we see that over the past 15 years, the Azerbaijani authorities have shown a clear disinterest in capturing Elmars’ killers and identifying those who ordered the crime,” said Emin Huseynov, Executive Director of IRFS. “This high-profile crime has no statute of limitation and the inaction of the authorities in the investigation into the murder of Elmar year after year, only reinforces our suspicions that representatives of the current ruling political elite were involved in the death of the leading critic of the government,” Emin Huseynov concluded.

In view of the apparent lack of desire of the authorities to investigate this high-profile crime and the manifestation of their interest in maintaining impunity for the murder of the journalist, IRFS calls on the Council of Europe and the OSCE as well as the UN to demand from the Azerbaijani authorities to find and punish all those responsible for the murder of Elmar Huseynov and, if necessary, to force the authorities into action by the use of all possible international mechanisms, including sanctions.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to end once and for all their hostile and repressive attitude towards freedom of speech representatives, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the murders of journalists Elmar Huseynov, Alim Kazimli (died after an attack in 2005) Rafik Tagi (died after an attack in 2011) Rasim Aliyev (died after an attacks in 2015) as well as the mysterious deaths of journalists Novruzali Mammadov (allegedly died after beginning a hunger strike in prison in 2009) and Eiyub Karimov (allegedly died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2018) and blogger Mehman Galendarova (allegedly hanged himself in his prison cell in 2017).

IRFS also calls on the authorities to release all imprisoned journalists and to stop using politically motivated and trumped-up criminal cases against their critics, to completely decriminalize defamation, to remove judicial and extra-judicial restrictions for blocking independent and opposition media sites, to stop lowering and limiting access to YouTube and Facebook, as well as to remove the travel ban against independent journalists, to stop all politically motivated criminal cases against media representatives and to put a stop to the pressure they use in order to restrict freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.

March 2, 2020