Human Rights Watch has stated that the Azerbaijani government continued to maintain what it calls “rigid control” in the country, imposing severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly in 2019.
According to the watchdog organization
released last Tuesday, although the government freed over 50 human rights defenders, journalists, opposition activists and government critics, at least 30 more still remain “wrongfully imprisoned, while authorities regularly targeted its critics and other dissenting voices.”
The report provides examples for each type of freedom violation. The most notable example of mass legal offenses is the use of police violence, beatings, arrests and insulting protesters during the clearing of a peaceful rally staged by Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AFPF) activists in central Baku in October. “At least 35 senior AFPF politicians received sentences of up to 60 days on bogus charges”, the report underlines. Mentioning the physical and mental abuses the top leaders of the party sustained before, during and after the rally, the report underlines that police made home visits to intimidate and thus hinder activists from attending the rally.
Police also pursued journalists covering the opposition protests, and the report particularly notes that the mainstream media is “under tight government control.”
The report also highlights the prosecution of lawyers and the loss of their licenses for the defending the rights of the opposition.