Azerbaijan: Freedom House Condemns Detention of 40 Activists Ahead of Protest
In response to the detention of 40 activists, bloggers, and opposition party members in Azerbaijan ahead of a planned protest of the upcoming constitutional referendum, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The targeting of these individuals for harassment and detention ahead of a peaceful protest is an unequivocal violation of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “The government of Azerbaijan must immediately release those detained and cease intimidation of individuals who seek to exercise their constitutional rights.”
In July 2016, the government of Azerbaijan announced that a referendum to amend the constitution would be held on September 26. Proposed amendments include the extension of the presidential term in office from five to seven years, introduction of the new office of vice-presidency, rearrangement of the line of presidential succession, and abolishment of the age limit for the presidency, among other critical changes. On September 11, activists and opposition party members held a rally in the capital of Baku, and announced plans for more rallies on September 17 and 18. The detention of these activists began on September 10 and appears to be ongoing as of the time of this release.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.86 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.