Region 19:30 05/08/2014

International human rights organizations condemn arrest of Azerbaijani human rights defender Rasul Jafarov

International human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the arrest of Azerbaijani human rights activist Rasul Jafarov, as it stated in official announcements published on the websites of these organizations.

The arrest of Rasul Jafarov, founder of the Human Rights Club (HRC) and coordinator of the human rights campaign during 2012 Eurovision song contest hosted by Azerbaijan, was a retaliation against him for his work as a human rights defender. Rasul Jafarov has been deprived of freedom in connection with his attempts to exercise his right to freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International says in a statement.

The statement also mentions that independent human rights and pro-democracy organisations have long faced harassment and restrictions in Azerbaijan. The refusal to register NGOs leaves their leaders with no choice but to operate outside the strict legal framework, which is later used by the authorities as a pretext for their criminal prosecution. Rasul Jafarov is the fifth person to be prosecuted on these grounds in the last four months.

Amnesty International considers Rasul Jafarov to be a prisoner of conscience. There are no fewer than 20 other civil society activist in Azerbaijan who are POCs.

The announcement made by international human rights organization Human Rights Watch says that Jafarov’s arrest reflects the government’s concerted efforts to silence its critics.

“The authorities should immediately secure Jafarov’s release from pretrial custody and drop all politically motivated charges against him. They should also end their ongoing harassment against independent organizations,” says the announcement.

According to deputy Europe and Central Asia director at HRW Rachel Denber the crackdown continued even as, on May 14, Azerbaijan took over the rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Jafarov’s arrest should be a wake-up call to the Council of Europe and its member states and they should do everything possible to secure Jafarov’s release.

“Rasul Jafarov is one of the most outspoken critics of politically motivated prosecution in Azerbaijan. By arresting Jafarov, the authorities are sending an unambiguous message to activists to stop their human rights advocacy,” said Denber.

Jafarov and a number of other human rights defenders had made a report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. At the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE in Baku a month ago Jafarov and others held a public hearing on the issues of civil society. Both of these events generated a backlash in Baku. Authorities were literally furious with the PACE decision to appoint a special rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Human rights activist Leyla Yunus was arrested on 30 July in her house yard. A number of charges were brought up against her among them that of state treason. According to the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) of Azerbaijan as of 21 May 2014 there were 130 victims of political repressions in Azerbaijan: 41 of which are prisoners of conscience and 89 are political prisoners.

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