Increasing Concern over Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
The Netherlands Helsinki Committee is concerned about the further intensification of the Azerbaijani authorities’ campaign against human rights defenders towards the end of 2014. The trumped-up charges (related to alleged financial mismanagement) against Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev, two prominent defenders arrested in August, were widened (here and here), so they now could be convicted to up to 12 years. The start of their trials was announced for 15 and 16 January respectively; the NHC is working with other NGOs on arranging independent monitoring of their trials.
The trial of Leyla Yunus, arrested at the same time, has not yet started. Campaigning by international NGOs, both human rights groups and peace groups, for her release is continuing. The campaigning includes calls for sanctions and other extraordinary steps by European and US authorities (see here and here, a call on Council of Europe member states, co-signed by the NHC, to start discussing the possible suspension of Azerbaijan, in the face of the flagrant violations by the country of the Council’s human rights standards).
Independent journalism was severely hit by the arrest of the country’s most prominent investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on 5 December, after an investigation on allegedly pushing a former colleague to attempt to commit suicide. In the final week of December, the Baku bureau of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty was raided and sealed by the authorities, staff apprehended for questioning and others summoned for questioning. Earlier in the month, the Baku office of the main independent online tv station, Meydan TV, had already closed.