Sport for Rights: release political prisoners before Formula 1

The coalition “Sport for rights” has called for the release of political prisoners before Formula 1.

Made up of numerous international NGOs united under the slogan, “Sport for Rights”, the coalition has called for the government of Azerbaijan to release unfairly arrested activists and journalists in the lead up to the Formula 1 competition which will take place on June 17th – 19th.

The leadership of Formula 1 has a crucial opportunity to press the Azerbaijani government to make concrete steps to improve its human rights record ahead of the Baku Grand Prix,” said Jane Buchanan, vice president of Human Rights Watch for Europe and Central Asia.

The coalition has called on international sports organizations to seek assurances on human rights in countries hosting sporting events.

In the last few years, the government of Azerbaijan has systematically suppressed the rights of journalists, mass media and independent activists. Dozens of people have been arrested, including the well – known journalist Khadija Ismailova and opposition politician, Ilgar Mammadov.

The government has also forced numerous NGOs who had formerly criticized the government to cease their activities.

In a letter to the director of Formula 1, Bernard Ecclestone, the coalition urged him to publicly condemn the large scale violation of human rights in Azerbaijan and to call for the liberation of unfairly tried and sentenced individuals.

More specifically, the coalition asked Ecclestone to urge the authorities in Azerbaijan to:

  • unconditionally release Khadija Ismailova, Ilgar Mammadov, journalist Seymur Khazi and blogger Ilkin Rustamzade
  • cease judicial persecution of independent journalists and activists
  • cease the uncalled – for intervention in the work of independent organizations
  • guarantee unmolested working conditions to journalists participating covering the Grand Prix Baku.

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