August 24th, 2011

We, the representatives of Azerbaijani civil society, regret to say that our country has fallen victim to gross violations of property rights during the past two years. Under the direct leadership of the head of the Baku City Executive Power, Hajibala Abutalibov, approximately 400 apartment buildings have been demolished and over 20,000 citizens were deprived of their property rights.

It is not only individuals who have been exposed to these violations. Human rights defenders and NGOs are also at risk; the office of the Institute for Peace and Democracy on Shamsi Badalbayli street was bulldozed on August 11th, without notification to IPD Director Leyla Yunus, and in direct violation of the Baku Local Economic Court ruling of 24 May 2011. The destruction of a building without a court decision is inadmissible. According to the office employees and neighbors, because the demolition was carried out without warning, the lives of employees were seriously endangered. In addition, the furniture, equipment and documents in the office were all destroyed or subsequently looted.

Although the demolition of this office was proposed several months ago, the May ruling put a stay on any action. The office was demolished the day after a New Times article in which Lelya Yunus commented on the demolition activity in Baku.  This indicates that the demolition was politically motivated, and directly linked to Leyla Yunus’ human rights activities. Yunus has been vocal in her condemnation of corruption and has published of articles in international media on this and related issues.

We, as representatives of Azerbaijani civil society, condemn the destruction of the IPD office and call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to address the following issues:

•    The violation of property rights of citizens should be ended; residents should not be forced to leave their property, nor should the houses be demolished;  

•    Compensation should be paid to the citizens for psychological and financial losses incurred from the demolition of their houses;

•    The persons that ordered and executed the destruction of IPD offe at 38 Shamsi Badalbayli str. should be brought to justice;

•    Compensation should be paid out to those who incurred losses during the destruction of the apartment where the IPD office was located and to other organizations that were also located in that space.

    Arzu Abdullayeva, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
    Anar Mammadli, Election Monitoring and Democracy Education Center
    Intigam Aliyev, Legal Education Society
    Rashid Hajili, Media Rights Institute
    Rasul Jafarov, Human Rights Club
    Eynulla Fatullayev, Public Movement for Human Rights
    Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
    Leyla Aliyeva, Center for Strategic and International Studies
    Zohrab Ismayil, Public Union for Free Economy
    Irada Javadova, Legal Education Pubilc Union
    Eldar Namazov, Public Forum for Azerbaijan
    Sabit Bagirov, FAR-Center
    Mirvari Gahramanli, Defence Committee for Oilmen’s Rights
    Shahvalad Chobanoglu, Defence Alliance for Political Freedoms
    Rovshan Hajiyev, Democratic Journalism School
    Avaz Hasanov, Humanitarian Studies Center