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The UN Rapporteur on human rights defenders has held a press conference on the results of his visit to Azerbaijan at the UN Office in Baku. The rapporteur’s statement on the findings of the visit was made public at the conference.
According to the statement, in the past three years the civil society in Azerbaijan has been faced with the most difficult situation ever since Azerbaijan regained its independence. The rapporteur has touched on such issues as shutdown of independent newspapers and media organisations, harassment of journalists, restrictions imposed on NGOs’ activities, etc.
The rapporteur has also put forward his recommendations to the Azerbaijan government in the statement. He has urged the authorities to provide an enabling environment for human rights defenders; to refrain from prosecuting them for their peaceful and legitimate activities; to release all human rights defenders, vacate criminal cases against NGO leaders and employees, repeal travel bans and unfreeze their bank accounts; to remove all provisions restricting basic rights of defenders, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, from legislation; to simplify procedure for registration of NGOs; and, to ensure that any restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly are proportionate and necessary in a democratic society and do not prevent demonstrations from happening.
President’s aide on socio-political issues Ali Hasanov has commented on the statement of the UN special rapporteur Michel Forst who has examining the situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Hasanov said the arguments made in the statement did not reflect the reality and were biased and politically motivated.
“When speaking about human rights, the special rapporteur should have considered and included the violation of the rights of more than one million refugees and IDPs living in Azerbaijan. But I have to note with regret that the refugee-IDP problem, which is a fateful issue for our country, has been sidelined,” Hasanov said.