Hopes for improvements to the human rights situation in Azerbaijan are fading, as it becomes increasingly clear that any positive development in this sphere is unfailingly followed by a negative event. Namely, on December 8, the deputy chairman of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Fuad Gahramanli was arrested on charges of making appeals against the state (Article 281.1 of Criminal Code) and incitement of national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility committed with threat of violence (Article 283.2.1). The Prosecutor’s Office alleges that the investigation has produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Fuad Gahramanli called upon citizens to disobey the authorities and that he incited religious hatred and hostility among various branches of Islam in public Facebook posts, dating back to September 2015. The Ministry of Justice recently rejected the party’s registration documents.
The following day, the human rights defender Leyla Yunus was conditionally released from prison. By arresting a political party activist immediately after releasing a human rights defender, is part of the government’s strategy to maintain the climate of fear they have created among the public. The UN Committee against Torture has called upon the Azerbaijani authorities to release all the human rights defenders currently behind bars and to amend the NGO law in a way that allows organizations to operate normally.
For years, a culture of impunity has prevailed in Azerbaijan. It is as a result of this that despite the conclusion of the investigation into the murder of the late journalist and IRFS chairman Rasim Aliyev, his doctors have not been brought to account despite their proven failure to provide proper medical care.
December 10 has been named International Human Rights Day, but in Azerbaijan, there is little to celebrate. More than a dozen journalists and bloggers, four human rights defenders and dozens more activists are behind bars. As the world celebrates this day, human rights defender Anar Mammadli and youth activist Elvin Abdullayev are suffering from medical problems in prison.
The search for the oil workers who are still missing after last week’s Gunashli oil platform fire is continuing, as is the fire itself, despite the work of a number of international experts who have been brought in to help extinguish the fire. A number of bodies have been recovered. The public is blaming SOCAR for this tragedy, believing that it occurred due to poor security measures.