Statement: IRFS condemns the anti-NGO bill

March 12th, 2013

Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) denounces the anti-NGO amendments to national legislation  that will significantly restrict the activities of independent NGOs and threaten their very survival. IRFS considers the bill to be the latest authoritarian step against civil society and believes it would further entrench Azerbaijan status as a non-free country.

The odious amendments to the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations (Public Unions and Foundations) was yesterday signed by President Aliyev.

The amendments will prevent people from exercising their right to freedom of association envisaged in Article 58 of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s Constitution, and right to freedom of assembly and association envisaged in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It looks like the regime aims to replace independent civil society with their own state-controlled organizations, as part of larger pre-election crackdown on dissent”, comments IRFS Chair, Emin Huseynov.

IRFS is alarmed that in the recent period, the Parliament has passed several laws that restrict human rights and the activities of civil society organizations and media. These measures restrict fundamental freedoms, violate international standards and Azerbaijan’s own constitution, and threaten to make Azerbaijan information vacuum.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to live up to the standards and commitments reflected in the European Convention of Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Toward that end, IRFS respectfully urges the government of Azerbaijan to repeal the recent legislation on NGO and other laws that would constrict fundamental freedoms and human rights.

IRFS further calls on the international community, in particular the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to take a  stronger stance and exert greater pressure on the Azerbaijani authorities to fulfill their international human rights obligations.

Background: In its February 15th plenary meeting Azerbaijani Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on Grants and the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations by a majority vote. They stipulate that NGOs receiving donations in any form of a value greater than 200 AZN (approximately 255 USD or 190 EUR) without a formal agreement could face massive fines and confiscation of property.

Recently, IRFS, along with other civil society organizations, urged President Aliyev to prevent the already alarming human rights situation in the country from becoming worse by refraining from signing these amendments into law.