As the EITI officials are discussing Azerbaijan’s status at the board meeting in Bogota we are writing with an urgent update in regards to the most recent imprisonment of a member of the EITI coalition, another serious blow to EITI standards.
The Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is a member of the EITI National Coalition. Our organisation is committed to promoting accountable journalism and freedom of expression. Without free and professional media, one cannot speak about transparency.
Last month, IRFS joined 21 international NGOs in calling for the EITI to suspend Azerbaijan from the transparency group for failing to comply with the EITI standard. Since we wrote that letter, and few days to go before the EITI meeting in Bogota, the authorities of Azerbaijan have further tightened the screws by handing a two-year jail sentence to the chairperson of our organisation, prominent Azerbaijani journalist, and blogger, Mehman Huseynov.
The European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and the Council Europe Human Rights Commissioner have reacted with harsh statements.
The sentencing of Mehman Huseynov, according to the European Union, “raises serious questions both as regards respect for freedom of expression and due process of law”.
“Mr Huseynov is known in Azerbaijan for his efforts to expose corruption. On the face of it, his sentence appears clearly disproportionate to the alleged crime. Reports of his irregular arrest, alleged ill-treatment, and irregularities in the subsequent court proceeding that ended in his conviction are of equally serious concern and should be immediately investigated. Mr Huseynov should be a witness in a credible and independent investigation of these allegations, seeking accountability for the perpetrators, as appropriate, not in jail. , the statement reads.
Also, the Azerbaijani and international civil society resolutely condemned the conviction.
In each implementing country, a multi-stakeholder group (MSG) comprised of representatives from government, companies and civil society is established to oversee EITI implementation. IRFS chairman, Mehman Huseynov is unable to participate neither in the NGO coalition nor the MSG meetings.
To this end, we once again call on the EITI to suspend Azerbaijan’s membership for failing to carry out key reforms. By overlooking Azerbaijan’s failure to comply with a very clear set of corrective actions established by the Board, the credibility of the validation process, particularly with regard to the EITI’s commitment to civil society participation within the initiative, would be severely undermined.
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder