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The sentencing of Azerbaijani youth activist Bayram Mammadov to ten years in prison on ludicrous charges is a terrible injustice, and a gross violation of his rights to free expression, the Instititute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) said.
This case follows the sentencing of Giyas Ibrahimov, another youth activist, to more than a decade in prison – also on charges stemming from his peaceful activism. Both youths have been detained since May 2016 after spraying graffiti on a statue of the former President of Azerbaijan.
‘Bayram and Giyas have effectively been punished for critising the cult of personality in Azerbaijan. Such outrageous sentences is yet another evidence of authorities’ utter contempt for justice’, said IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov.
Last month, Azerbaijani highest court failed to uphold the country’s legal obligation to execute the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov. In the statement, issued immediately afterwards, Council of Europe Secretary General condemned Azerbaijan for its “flagrant disrespect of the European Convention on Human Rights”.
These trends suggest that an already alarming human rights situation could worsen. IRFS welcomes final congressional passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act in the United States. The Global Magnitsky Act will allow the U.S. government to freeze assets of and ban visas for (non-U.S.) individuals worldwide who grossly violate human rights.
‘Violence and imprisonment for journalists, bloggers and activists with complete impunity has become rampant under the repressive regime of President Ilham Aliyev’, Emin Huseynov said. ‘Azerbaijan would be one good place to start using the Global Magnitsky Act once it is signed by President of the United States’, Huseynov noted.
Furthermore, IRFS calls on the international community to prioritise the problem of impunity for human rights violations and absence of the rule of law in Azerbaijan.
Given the gravity of the violations taking place in the country and the need for more robust action on the human rights front by the international community, IRFS calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to consider supporting the creation of a Special Rapporteur mandate on Azerbaijan.
The Council of Europe member states must hold Azerbaijan accountable for its non-compliance with Article 3 of the Council of Europe Statute, which stipulates that “every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council..”
The Azerbaijani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov and ensure their convictions and sentences are quashed. The authorities should immediately drop all politically motivated charges against 144 political prisoners and unconditionally release them.
IRFS further calls upon the international donors, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to refrain from supporting any initiative in Azerbaijan for as long as the government refuses to release the political prisoners and to implement genuine reforms by putting an end to the crackdown on peaceful dissent.