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Anar-MemmedliWe, representatives of Azerbaijan’s civil society, assess the recent arrest of our colleague, human rights defender Anar Mammadli, as part of a campaign of full-scale revenge by the authoritarian Azerbaijani authorities against civil society.

Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDSC), is facing criminal prosecution on trumped up charges of illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion solely because of the election monitoring activity he and his organization undertook during the 2013 presidential elections. Acting upon political orders from the Azerbaijani authorities, Nasimi District Court Judge Rashid Samadov placed Anar Mammadli in pretrial detention for three-months. The scenario of the arrest and charges are similar to those that were used against well-known human rights defender Alex Bialiatski by another predator of human rights – the Belarus regime. The arrest of Bialiatski has sparked enormous international criticism and pressure from the international community.

Together with Anar Mammadli, two other people – Bashir Suleymanli, executive director of EMDSC and Elnur Mammadov, chairman of “International Cooperation of Volunteers” Public Union – the partner organization of EMDS in its election monitoring project, are also facing similar charges and have been barred from leaving the country.

On the initiative of the Presidential Administration, the Parliament adopted new reactionary legislative amendments that will restrict further NGO activities. During the last five years, Azerbaijani authorities have created numerous bureaucratic obstacles for local civil society organizations and tried to weaken their activities by adopting countless reactionary legislative amendments. Not only local civil society organizations, but also branches of international organizations in Azerbaijan have become a target for the authorities. Activities of the Human Rights House and National Democratic Institute have been paralyzed; several others undergo inspections by various state bodies.

All these repressions have the same goal – to silence those who speak about the violations of human rights and corruption in the country. Dozens of journalistic investigations in the international and local media have proved that the Azerbaijani economy is monopolized by high-level officials and their family members, and public funds are embezzled by a group of oligarchs. International anti-corruption watchdogs and journalists revealed facts proving that contracts related to the most profitable spheres in the extractive industry are given to relatives of the country’s top officials.

Investigations have also revealed the illegal flow of billions dollars to offshore zones and other countries via murky schemes. Investigations by local and foreign journalists show that relatives of high-level bureaucrats are engaged in illegal business activities: taking into their hands the most profitable industries by using companies established in offshore zones. However, the country’s law enforcement neglects its duty to investigate and prosecute these illegal business activities and tax evasion in the millions of dollars by oligarch businessmen.

These investigations and reports, as well as the critical assessment of the Presidential elections by local and international organizations, have catalyzed Azerbaijani authorities’ wrath toward civil society.

The arrest of Anar Mammadli coincided with the eve of the Shahdeniz II gas export investment agreement signing ceremony, a crucial event for Azerbaijan’s economy. New amendments restricting NGO activities were adopted on the day of the event.

We consider this a message by Azerbaijani authorities to the West that although they are signing a new strategic energy deal with the European Union, they do not need European values and human rights.

To support this message, before and after presidential elections the authorities carried out a number of politically motivated arrests, and jailed dozens of innocent people, including prominent journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, lawyers, youth activists, and members of opposition parties. There are dozens of political prisoners including the chairman of Republican Alternative Movement Ilgar Mammadov, journalists Tofig Yagublu, Avaz Zeynalli, Parviz Hashimli, journalist and human rights defender Hilal Mammadov, youth activists from NIDA and Azad Genjlik organizations, as well as other political and public figures.

 

The authorities not only jail their opponents, they also created a fertile ground for flourishing corruption and money-laundering by big business empires under the control of high-level bureaucrats by adopting numerous repressive legislative amendments that restrict freedom of information in the country.

 

No government official has ever declared their assets to the public, although such requirements have been in the law for many years. The declaration of incumbent President Ilham Aliyev, which was obligatory for him to registration as a candidate by the Central Election Commission in the presidential elections, was hidden from the Azerbaijani people.

 

While corruption and bribery flourish in the country, high-level officials regularly trample over rule of law through the massive violation of citizens’ property rights.

 

Three fundamental freedoms declared in the Azerbaijani constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association – are on the verge of extinction.

 

In recent years, two journalists, Elmar Huseynov and Rafig Tagi, were killed for their professional work, another journalist Novruzali Mammadov died in the prison due to lack of necessary medical assistance; several other journalists have been the targets of unsuccessful murder attempts.  During the last seven years, in almost every quarter we have witnessed the arrest of another journalist, blogger or human rights defender.

 

The private lives of prominent critical and investigative journalists have been violated and information gathered is used as blackmail by the security services – they are filmed secretly and illegally, and these videos are distributed in the Internet. The broadcasts of all independent local and foreign TV and radio companies have ceased in the country and the broadcast media has been forced to serve the interests of the ruling regime.

 

The situation with regards to freedom of association has also deteriorated further in recent years. The authorities refuse to register NGOs established by independent activists. Hundreds of NGOs have been denied registration, including EMDSC, led by Anar Mammadli.

 

In the past ten years we witnessed deterioration of the situation of freedom of assembly.

 

Azerbaijan, a member state of the United Nations, Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), does not fulfill its own obligations in the field of human rights. The Azerbaijani authorities violate the Constitution, as well as human rights conventions that it has voluntarily joined.

 

Azerbaijan’s response to the critical assessment of the last presidential elections by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, as well as widespread crackdown of local election watchdogs before and after the voting day, including the arrest of EMDSC’s chairman, once again shows that the 2013 presidential election was conducted in an atmosphere of serious intolerance by the authorities.

 

We, the representatives of local civil society organizations, call on the Azerbaijani government to release immediately all political prisoners, including Anar Mammadli, Ilgar Mammadov and others.

 

We also call the Azerbaijani government to bring legislation in line with Council of Europe standards in order to ensure fundamental freedoms in the country. We also call on the Azerbaijani government to fulfill commitments it has undertaken within the framework of the UN Convention against Corruption, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Open Government Initiative.

 

In 2014, from May to October, for six months, Azerbaijan will chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe – one of the main guarantors of human rights in Europe. We believe that in preparation for the chairmanship in such a prominent international organization, Azerbaijan must demonstrate respect for human rights.

 

Therefore, we call on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and other bodies of the Council of Europe to react to the unbearable condition of human rights in Azerbaijan. We call on all interested parties in the Council of Europe to address the Azerbaijani authorities and to impose necessary sanctions on them if they do not fulfill their human rights commitments.
We also call on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to demand that the Azerbaijani government stop repressions against human rights, and free victims of these repressions before considering approving the mandate of Azerbaijan’s delegation for the January session.

We also ask the UN, OSCE and European Union, of whose Eastern Partnership program we participate, to lend their support to Azerbaijan’s civil society in these deplorable conditions.

December 20, 2013

List of endorsers of statement on Anar Mammadli

Human rights defenders

  1. Asabali Mustafayev, Democracy and Human Rights Resource Center
  2. Annagi Hacibeyli, Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
  3. Intiqam Aliyev, Legal Education Society
  4. Rashid Hacili, Media Rights Institute
  5. Leyla Yunus, Peace and Democracy Institute
  6. Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
  7. Arzu Abdullayeva, Helsinki Citizens Assembly – Azerbaijan
  8. Zohrab Ismayil, Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy
  9. Rasul Jafarov, Human Rights Club
  10. Mubariz Tagiyev, Human Rights in Extractive Industries Public Union
  11. Khalid Kazimov, Regional Human Rights and Media Center
  12. Ogtay Gulaliyev, Society for Democratic Reforms
  13. Shahin Hajiyev, Najaf Najafov Fund
  14. Alovsat Sadigly, Education Research Center Public Union
  15. Hafiz Hasanov, Law and Development Public Association
  16. Azer Mehtiyev, Public Union For Economic Initiatives
  17. Ziya Guliyev, Chairman of Center for Legal Initiatives
  18. Elchin Abdullayev, Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Public Union
  19. Vidadi Isgenderli, human rights defender
  20. Matanat Azizova,  Woman Crisis Center
  21. Alovsat Aliyev, Azerbaijan Migration Center
  22. Mehriban Zeynalova, CLEAN WORLD
  23. Dilara Efendiyeva, human rights defender
  24. Bashir Suleymanli, Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center
  25. Ilgar Gasimov, Legal Assistance Public Union
  26. Hasan Huseynli “Intelligent Citizen’ Enlightenment Center
  27. Fuad Hasanov, Democracy Monitor
  28. Mirvari Gahramanli, Committee to Protect Oil Workers
  29. Alakbar Mammadov, human rights defender
  30. Elchin Namazov – Institute for Defense of Rights and Freedoms, chairman
  31. Elshan Hasanov, Public Alliance “Azerbaijan Without Political Prisoners”
  32. Letafet Malikova, Regional Human Rights and Education Public Association
  33. Ruhangiz Huseynova, “Solidarity Among Women” SU
  34. Sevil Yuzbasheva, Eco World public union
  35. Elnur Mammadov, Volunteers International Cooperation Public Unionza
  36. Rafik Tamrazov, Center of Equal Opportunities
  37. Akif Gurbanov, Democratic Initiatives Institute

 

Lawyers

 

  1. Aslan Ismayilov, lawyer
  2. Khalid Bagirov, lawyer
  3. Nemat Karimli, lawyer
  4. Rosvhana Rahimova, lawyer
  5. Elchin Sadigov, lawyer
  6. Fariz Namazli, lawyer
  7. Gunay Ismayilova, lawyer
  8. Asima Nasirli, lawyer
  9. Namizad Safarov, lawyer
  10. Muzaffar Bahkishov, lawyer
  11. Zibeyda Sadigova, lawyer
  12. Leyla Madatli, lawyer
  13. Sadiga Mehdizade, lawyer
  14. Yalchin Imanov, lawyer

 

Journalists/ Media

 

  1. Mehman Aliyev, Turan Agency
  2. Khadija Ismayil, journalist
  3. Aynur Imranova, freelance journalist
  4. Ganimat Zahid, editor-in-chief of Azadlig newspaper
  5. Tural Mustafayev, freelance Reporter
  6. Jahangir Youssouf – Photojournalist
  7. Mehman Huseynov, photo and video reporter
  8. Kamila Maharramli-journalist
  9. Ulviyya Asadzade, journalist
  10. Mahammad Turkman, journalist
  11. Turkan Huseynova, microblogger
  12. Shahvalad Chobanoglu, journalist
  13. Zahir Amanov, “Janub Khabarlari” newspaper
  14. Idrak Abbasov, journalist
  15. Rovshan Hajiyev, journalist
  16. Kamran Mahmudov, journalist
  17. Alasgar Mammadli, media expert
  18. Rahim Hajiyev, first deputy editor-in-chief of “Azadlig” newspaper
  19. Samir Kazimli, journalist
  20. Elchin Mammad, editor-in-chief of “Yuksalish Namina” newspaper
  21. Ayten Mammadova, journalist
  22. Elnur Astanbayli, journalist
  23. Emin Milli ,  Meydan TV director
  24. Tahmina Tagizade, Baku coordinator of Meydan TV
  25. Nijat Kamal, journalist
  26. Zamin Haji, journalist

Politicians/activists

  1. Jamil Hasanli, Chairman of the National Council
  2. Isa Gambar, Musavat Party chairman
  3. Ali Karimli , Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman
  4. Erkin Gadirli, board member of Republican Alternative (ReAl) Movement
  5. Yegana Hajibekova National Council member
  6. Gultakin Hajibayli, Committee on International Relations of the National Council
  7. Ulvi Hasanli, Board member of N!DA Civic Movement
  8. Turgut Gambar, Board member of N!DA Civic Movement
  9. Kanan Gasimli, Member of N!DA Civic Movement
  10. Rashad Shirin, Political Analyst
  11. Natig Jafarli, Executive Secretary of REAL Movement
  12. Tural Abbasli, board member of Musavat Party
  13. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, youth activist
  14. Samir Asadli, Central Executive Apparatus of the Civic Solidarity Party
  15. Nargiz Yagublu, deputy chairman of Musavat Party’s Youth Organization
  16. Punhan Imamli, chairman of Youth Organization of Citizens’ Solidarity Party
  17. Azer Gasimli, political analyst
  18. Narmin Rahimli, activist
  19. Javid Hajibayli, Musavat Party
  20. Azer Ismayil, Sabirabad regional branch of Musavat Party
  21. Natiq Adilov, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party
  22. Arif Yunusov, conflictologist
  23. Hikmat Hajizade, political expert
  24. Elchin Hasanov
  25. Mehriban Vazir
  26. Altay Goyushov
  27. Tural Huseynli

Others Public Figures

  1. Mammad Mammadzada
  2. Sevda Safaraliyeva
  3. Murad Hasanli
  4. Islam Sarvaroglu
  5. Vafa Subhani
  6. Togrul Ismayil
  7. Jahangir Alibayzade
  8. Samira Ahmadbayli
  9. Sadig Fataliyev
  10. Shahla Sultanova
  11. Nigat Fatali
  12. Rasim Karaja
  13. Shahla Aliguliyeva
  14. Gulchin Seyidova
  15. Tatyana Kryuchkina
  16. Bahar Haji-zade
  17. Gunay Ismayilova
  18. Gunay Rzayeva
  19. Aytekin Huseynli
  20. Gunay Gasimova
  21. Elmir Mirzayev
  22. Nazli Agayeva
  23. Rovshan Agayev

Total Signatures: 127

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