Friday Wrap-up: house arrest denied, lack of cooperation on human rights and COP29 agreement

Sevinc Vaqifqızı və Ülvi Həsənli. Foto: Meydan TV

This week saw another loss in court for arrested journalists, Azerbaijan accused of non-cooperation in torture and human rights issues and demands for the UN to address human rights in the COP29 agreement with Azerbaijan.

AbzasMedia journalists had another hearing and were refused house arrest

The lawyers representing journalists Ulvi Hasanli, Sevinj Vagifgizi, and Elnara Gasimova, imprisoned in connection with the “AbzasMedia” case, have again petitioned for their release under house arrest. These motions were presented on July 3 in the Khatai District Court, with separate trials held for each journalist.

During the hearings, the investigator from the Baku City Chief Police Department opposed the motions, arguing that the investigation was still ongoing and that releasing the journalists could impede the process.

In court, Hasanli, Vagifgizi, and Gasimova asserted that the smuggling charges against them were baseless and that their arrests were due to their investigative work on corruption involving the ruling family and other officials in AbzasMedia. They expressed a lack of faith in receiving a fair judgment from the court. Their lawyers contended that there was no justification for keeping them imprisoned, but Judge Sulhane Hajiyeva denied the petitions, refusing to release the journalists to house arrest.

The Committee against Torture of the Council of Europe criticizes Azerbaijan for non-cooperation

The Committee against Torture of the Council of Europe (CPT) issued a statement criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities for their lack of cooperation. The CPT had made efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with Azerbaijan to address issues of ill-treatment and torture by police officers, as detailed in their reports. Despite these efforts, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Internal Affairs has not implemented the CPT’s recommendations, leading to the issuance of the statement.

The CPT emphasized that their attempts to foster dialogue, including high-level talks and visits to Baku, have been ignored by the Azerbaijani authorities. This lack of response represents a significant and unprecedented violation of the Convention. Due to the seriousness of the allegations of ill-treatment and torture, the CPT decided to publish a report on a special visit to Azerbaijan in 2022 alongside the public statement, highlighting their concerns.

Despite the strained relations, the CPT expressed hope that cooperation with Azerbaijani authorities could be restored and emphasized their readiness to support decisive steps to protect fundamental values. The CPT remains committed to dialogue within its mandate. While the Azerbaijani authorities have not commented on the statement, they have previously denied international organizations’ claims, asserting that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan and that detainees are not mistreated.

Amnesty International demands UN to address human rights in the COP29 agreement with Azerbaijan

Amnesty International has urged the United Nations, the organizer of the upcoming COP29 climate summit in Azerbaijan, to incorporate human rights protections into the Host Country Agreement (HCA) with Azerbaijan. The call comes after Amnesty International’s recent success in securing an HCA for last year’s COP summit in the UAE, which had significant deficiencies in safeguarding participants’ rights. Amnesty is concerned that the agreement with Azerbaijan will similarly lack provisions for protecting human rights and civil society activities and fears it will not be made public before the summit.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Climate Policy Adviser, emphasized that the HCA with Azerbaijan must ensure the protection of all human rights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. This is crucial as Azerbaijani authorities have a history of suppressing dissent, recently arresting human rights defender Anar Mammadli and several journalists and activists. Amnesty International demands the release of those unjustly detained and stresses the importance of making the HCA public immediately after signing to assess the protection of civil activism during COP29.

Amnesty International highlighted past COP summits in Poland, Spain, the UK, Egypt, and the UAE, where freedoms of expression and assembly were restricted, and expressed concerns over similar violations in Azerbaijan. With COP29 scheduled in Baku from November 11 to 22, neither Azerbaijani authorities nor the UN organizers have responded to this call. Azerbaijani leadership has consistently denied arresting individuals for political views or professional activities, despite recent detentions of journalists and activists from Toplum TV, AbzasMedia, and Kanal 13 on smuggling charges, which they attribute to political motives.

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