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WMD_LOGO_CIRCLEThe Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy expresses its profound concern over the continuing deterioration of conditions for civil society in Azerbaijan, particularly the arrests and imprisonment of the country’s leading members of civil society.  We most urgently call upon the Azerbaijani government to immediately release Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, and Intigam  Aliyev on humanitarian grounds.  Reports clearly indicate that Leyla Yunus’ health has declined while in prison to the point that her life is in imminent danger, while her husband, Arif, and Intigam  Aliyev are also in declining health.

Through its alerts on behalf of Leyla and Arif Yunus, Intigam  Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, and, most recently, Khadija Ismayilova, the World Movement for Democracy has repeatedly alerted the international community to Azerbaijan’s continuing slide into abject authoritarianism.  We also note the long-term imprisonment of Anar Mamedi, Ilgar Mammadov, and a list of others much too long to provide here.  We will continue to support actions to address the expanding persecution of human rights and democracy activists in the country and to urge the government to respect the democratic principles to which the country has committed itself as a member of the Council of Europe.

The World Movement Steering Committee thus joins in solidarity with other democracy and human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Civil Rights Defenders, both of which are represented by members of the Steering Committee, in urging the Azerbaijani government to end its brutal crackdown on civil society.  The repression currently being exerted by the government is unprecedented in its severity for a member of the Council of Europe, with close to 100 political activists jailed and the work of nongovernmental organizations almost totally circumscribed.  The Azerbaijani government must surely be taking notice of the growing chorus of civil society organizations, governments, intergovernmental bodies, and prominent human rights defenders in calling for a reversal of its anti-democratic course.  In a September 18 Resolution, the European Parliament called upon the Azerbaijani government to release all political prisoners, and called upon the Council of Europe to “consider the possibility of targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations.”

In the months subsequent to the adoption of that European Parliament Resolution, the situation in the country has significantly deteriorated.  As a result, the Civic Solidarity Platform, comprising 25 European and Eurasian organizations, has joined others in calling for Azerbaijan to be suspended from the Council of Europe.  In its statement, the Civic Solidarity Platform makes clear that “calls made by Council of Europe representatives urging Azerbaijan to comply with its obligations as a member of the organization, as well as decisions by the European Court of Human Rights finding violations in cases of imprisonment of critical voices (such as political opposition member Ilgar Mammadov) have not brought about any change of course in Azerbaijan.  It is now time for the Council of Europe to respond to the unprecedented situation in Azerbaijan in a firm and determined manner. . . .  We call on the Council of Europe to suspend Azerbaijan’s membership until the authorities of the country drop all charges and unconditionally release NGO representatives, lawyers, journalists and political opponents who are currently in detention or prison for their legitimate professional activities.”  The members of the World Movement Steering Committee could not agree more.

We therefore appeal to all those in the international community to raise awareness of the critical situation for civil society in Azerbaijan and to encourage all democratic governments to speak out forcefully in support of the principles for enabling and protecting civil society, as articulated in the World Movement’s Defending Civil Society report, not only in Azerbaijan, but in all countries where those principles are being violated.

Finally, we also appeal to the government of Azerbaijan to consider the immediate humanitarian release of Leyla Yunus (particularly as she celebrates her birthday on December 21st) , as well as Arif Yunus, and Intigam  Aliyev so they can begin to regain their impaired health and re-join their families, especially in the New Year.  It is the very least the government can do to cultivate good-will as a member of the Council of Europe and of the community of civilized nations.

On behalf the Steering Committee,



The Rt. Honorable Kim Campbell, Chair

Former Prime Minister of Canada

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