“A European Union official in his visit to Baku on June 16, 2017, should press President Ilham Aliyev to free unjustly arrested political activists, journalists, and other government critics,” reads the statement of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR).
The commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement, Johannes Hahn will visit to Baku as a part of the preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit. The Summit will be held on November, and it is planed to meet with Ilham Aliyev and the representatives of nongovernmental organizations.
On February, 2017 EU has started the negotiations on the partnership agreement with Azerbaijan.
HRW and IPHR believe that on 16 June the Commissioner should call on Aliyev to release unjustly arrested activists, journalists and other government critics: “Commissioner Hahn should make human rights concerns a priority when he meets with President Aliyev,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “He should make it clear to President Aliyev that without an end to the authorities’ crackdown on dissent, there cannot be a genuine partnership between his government and the European Union,” reads the statement.
On June 15, European Parliament adopted a resolution on criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities’ arrest of an investigative journalist who had been abduct in Georgia and illegally taken to Azerbaijan, and also calling to release the other activists who had been arrested on political motivated reasons.
HRW statement also mention the international pressure on Azerbaijani authorities in 2015, according to which 21 human rights defenders, journalist, and political activists had been released: “But the authorities continued to arrest and prosecute dozens of others on spurious criminal charges to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate work. The crackdown has intensified in recent months,” reads the statement.
Except Afghan Mukhtarli, the journalist Aziz Azizov and Nijat Amiraslanov, Popular Front Party Deputy Chairman Gozal Bayramli, blogger Mehman Huseynov’s arrest had been underlined in the statement as well.
“None of the convictions of those released in the past two years were quashed and some face travel restrictions, including the award-winning investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova and the human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev. Others have fled the country fearing further politically motivated prosecutions. Nongovernmental organizations in Azerbaijan face almost insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles to operating independently due to excessive legal and regulatory restrictions,” says HRW statement.
According to the expert on human rights issues in South Caucasus, Giorgi Gagua the Commissioner Han should highlight the human rights issues in the meeting with president Aliyev: “He must clearly say there will not be any partnership agreement if Azerbaijani authorities do not stop the pressure on dissents,” says Gagua.
“Commissioner Hahn should impress upon President Aliyev that the pace of the negotiations over the new agreement, as well as the quality of the EU-Azerbaijan relations, depend on Baku’s fulfillment of its international human rights obligations,” says Brigitte Dufour, director of the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR). “The calls made by the European Parliament, like releasing all unjustly jailed activists and amending repressive laws, should be first few steps on that road.”