HRW: Unprecedented crackdown in Azerbaijan

2015 was marked by an unprecedented crackdown on human rights in Azerbaijan, rights watchdog Human Rights Watch stated in its annual World Report 2016, published yesterday.

2015 was marked by an unprecedented crackdown on human rights in Azerbaijan, rights watchdog

Human Rights Watch

stated in its annual

World Report 2016


published yesterday.

The Azerbaijani government’s unrelenting crackdown is decimating the country’s once vibrant community of independent nongovernmental organizations and media, according to the document.

“The government’s crackdown in Azerbaijan is unprecedented in the country’s post-Soviet history,” said

Giorgi Gogia

, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “Although the government is opening the country for international sporting and other events, it’s closing the country to human rights scrutiny.”

Courts have sentenced leading human rights defenders and other government critics to long prison terms in politically motivated, unfair trials. Dozens more face harassment and prosecution, and the authorities have denied entry to international human rights monitors and journalists.

According to the HRW report, the crackdown continued as Baku hosted the inaugural

European Games

. The government barred international monitors and journalists from entering the country during 2015 and forced the closure of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE)’s Baku office. For the first time ever, the OSCE refused to send an observation mission to monitor the Azerbaijani legislative vote, which took place on November 1, citing the restrictions on the mission.

A number of activists were handed long-term prison sentences, ranging from six to eight-and-a-half years, including human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, and the human rights campaigner Rasul Jafarov. Others imprisoned on politically motivated charges include the


columnist Seymur Haziyev, and opposition party activists Siraj and Faraj Kerimlis, and Murad Adilov.  Taleh Khasmammadov, a human rights activist, was sentenced to three years.

Azerbaijan’s international partners, however, struggled to find a unified response to the crackdown. Several Council of Europe institutions condemned rights violations, but have yet to impose any consequences, according to HRW. The European Union continues to negotiate a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan without preconditioning the talks on fundamental improvements in human rights or the release of jailed human rights defenders and journalists.

“The absence of serious international response to Azerbaijan’s draconian crackdown undermines European human rights standards,” Gogia said. “International entities, in particular the European Union and its members, should develop a consistent strategy to get the Azerbaijani government to carry out its human rights obligations.”

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