The Norwegian Human Rights House Foundation has expressed its concern about the Azerbaijani government's increasing crackdown on dissident voices under the "guise of protecting public health" during the novel COVID-19 outbreak.
"We call on the authorities to immediately cease these human rights violations and for the international community to hold the authorities accountable," the human rights advocacy group
in a statement on 15 June.
According to the foundation, the Azerbaijani authorities are using the pandemic to suppress the opposition and individuals questioning its response to the pandemic and increasing infection rates.
“Azerbaijani authorities must cease these activities immediately, release those arbitrarily detained, and live up to their obligations before international human rights law to protect the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression," the statement adds.
COVID-19 reached Azerbaijan on 28 February and since 24 March the government has enforced a special quarantine regime across the country urging people to stay at home, mostly in large cities.
The Cabinet of Ministers eased the special quarantine regime on May 4. Following a rise in the infection rate, a weekend lockdown was imposed in June to prevent the spread of the virus.
The country saw a steep resurgence since the beginning of June, with infections rising nearly 54 per cent in the last 16 days.
The infection cases in Azerbaijan are not only detected among people coming to the country from abroad. The reason of the rising number are also the cases of people infecting each other within the country, according to the official data.
Another 338 cases of coronavirus infection were registered in Azerbaijan on Tuesday, 209 people were treated and released from hospitals. Four more passed, raising the death toll to 126.
So far, 10,662 people have been infected with coronavirus in Azerbaijan. 4,588 of them are intensive care patients.
The state of emergency and weekend curfews were followed by arbitrary arrests and detentions, which disproportionately targeted peaceful protesters, according to observers.
“This use of state power to attempt to silence opposition forces and curtail the freedom of assembly is yet another example of the authorities’ unwillingness to live up to their obligations before international law."