JOINT STATEMENT of civil society organizations operating in Azerbaijan

February 9th, 2013

Azerbaijani authorities have developed a sophisticated repressive system that tightens the political atmosphere and stifles the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression. Bans on the freedom of assembly, huge fines for organizers or participants of public gatherings, mass arrests, preventing NGOs from organizing events in both regions and Baku, warnings made to representatives of opposition and independent media demanding not to publicize problems of society, are all part of the vicious cycle of pressure on civil society.

Preliminary approval by the parliament of amendments envisaging tightening control over grants and donations received by NGOs, religious structures and other organizations, and imposing huge fines and even confiscation of property, is regarded as the continuation of the same policy.

As the representatives of civil society organizations operating in Azerbaijan, we declare that all these actions serve the purpose to curtail the freedoms of association, assembly and expression. We believe that this policy of pressure on civil society is in sharp contrast with the declared state policy, and by hindering the development of civil society it damages the reputation of the country.

Given the grave negative impact that this pressure and also amendments proposed to NGO law could have on the activities of civil society organizations, we call on the political authorities to refrain from taking such initiatives.

We also appeal to the Chairman of Azerbaijani Parliament and all of the parliamentarians not to put such a reactionary bill up for discussion or vote for it.

As representatives of civil society organizations, we are always interested and ready for constructive discussions with parliament and government on all kinds of issues, including the recently proposed bill, with the aim of liberalization of legislation on freedoms of association, assembly and expression.

We also call on international organizations and diplomatic missions operating in Azerbaijan to give support for such discussions and genuine citizen-government dialogue.