Europe of Human Rights

A group of NGOs called on the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission to raise human rights issues during the visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Brussels later this week.

This way NGOs supported Azerbaijani human rights defenders who in their letter of June 14, 2013 sent to the same addressees highlighted a number of worrying trends.

In view of the deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan, NGOs hope that Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso will use the meeting with Aliyev as an opportunity to reaffirm that energy and trade cannot take precedence over democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The signatories of the letter point out that “the approach of presidential elections in Azerbaijan scheduled for October 2013 has triggered an increase in the level of restriction and abuse of fundamental freedoms.” This includes a new legislative framework for the operation of NGOs adopted in February 2013 which requires a burdensome formal registration of all grants exceeding 200 euros. NGOs point out that it is yet another obstacle to the already difficult operation of civil society. Moreover, in May 2013 the criminalization of libel was extended to include online activities. That same month the length of the maximum prison sentences for administrative offences that can be imposed for involvement in peaceful public protests was increased from 15 days to two months.

NGOs highlight that the European institutions have already begun to voice their concern about the lack of respect for human rights in Azerbaijan. The European Parliament in a resolution of June 13, 2013 dealing with the arrest of Ilgar Mammadov, the presidential candidate of the opposition, condemned the Azerbaijani authorities for countless deficiencies in human rights protection and called for immediate action. Also the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on the need for Azerbaijan to honor international obligations and commitments.

According to the NGOs the Commission and EEAS officials should now follow-up on the European Parliament’s resolution. They hope that EU officials will stress that respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law are prerequisites for cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.

The letter is available here.

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