International reactions to President Ilham Aliyev’s yesterday pardon decree were swift. The decree ordered the release of 137 inmates, including rights defender Rasul Jafarov, attorney Anar Mammadli and journalist Rauf Mirkadirov.
Both the US State Department and UK Foreign Office saluted the decision, viewing it as a positive development.
The statement posted on the US State Department website on March 17
The United States welcomes the positive step by the Government of Azerbaijan to release more than a dozen individuals incarcerated for their work on human rights or for their exercise of fundamental freedoms.
Those released today include Rasul Jafarov, a prominent human rights defender; Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democratic Studies Center; Hilal Mammadov, editor-in-chief of a newspaper for the Talysh ethnic minority; and Tofig Yogublu, the Deputy Chairman of the opposition Musavat party. Journalist and peace activist Rauf Mirkadirov was also provided conditional release.
We look forward to working with Azerbaijan on additional positive steps. We also urge the government to release the remaining individuals widely considered to have been incarcerated for exercising similar freedoms and to end restrictions placed on the movement of those released.
In a similar vein, UK Minister for Europe David Lidington,
: “I welcome yesterday’s announcement of the release of a number of prisoners in Azerbaijan whose convictions we deem to have been politically motivated. This is a positive development. I encourage the Government of Azerbaijan to build on this important step by considering further measures to improve its human rights and democracy record. The United Kingdom stands ready to work in partnership with Azerbaijan on these issues.”