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Human Rights Groups and Former Diplomats Call for Action on Azerbaijan
In reaction to Azerbaijan’s detention and prosecution of growing numbers of human rights defenders, Freedom House joined other human rights organizations and former diplomats in a joint letter to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, asking the United States to impose a visa ban and freeze assets of Azerbaijani officials involved in large-scale human rights abuses, and take other substantive steps to press the Azerbaijan government to respect fundamental human rights.
“For years, Azerbaijan’s importance as an energy supplier and partner on security and counter-terrorism has outweighed attention to its deplorable human rights record,” the letter says. “The growing repression during the past year, however, has now made such an approach especially untenable. With parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year, we fear the situation will only get worse unless the West takes decisive action.”
In 2014, Azerbaijani authorities convicted or imprisoned 34 human rights defenders, political and civic activists, and journalists. Some were imprisoned in apparent retaliation for work with international human rights mechanisms such as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights groups believe the detention of critics of the government is linked to a “clean streets” policy ahead of European Olympic Games commencing in less than two month on June 12.
On April 9 prosecutors requested a nine year prison sentence for Rasul Jafarov, head of the Human Rights Club which took a leading role in exposing human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, particularly with his Sing for Democracy Campaign that embarrassed the government during the Eurovision song contests in 2012. His trial resumes April 14.
Read the joint letter to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry here. Read the full Open Statement Regarding the Human Rights Situation in Azerbaijan here.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2015, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2014, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2014, and receives a democracy score of 6.68 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2014.
Photo: Rasul Jafarov, National Endowment for Democracy
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