Officials Demolish Building Housing Three Azerbaijani NGOs | Freedom House

Officials Demolish Building Housing Three Azerbaijani NGOs

Despite a May 2011 ruling prohibiting its destruction, a building in Baku, Azerbaijan that housed three NGOs: the Institute for Peace and Democracy, the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Women’s Crisis Center, was destroyed on August 11. The demolition was part of a two-year “beautification” campaign demolishing homes and businesses instigated by the mayor of Baku and condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner as well as human rights groups. City officials reportedly did not give tenants warning or allow them remove their belongings before demolition began. Anti-corruption campaigns spearheaded by NGOs could be a potential factor in the demolition.

NGOs in Azerbaijan face mounting obstacles. The government restricts freedom of assembly, particularly for opposition parties. NGOs must register their grants with authorities and foreign NGOs and come to an agreement with the government before opening an office in Azerbaijan. To function as a legal entity, NGOs must register with the Ministry of Justice, a cumbersome and nontransparent process. Activists have also faced mounting obstacles in Azerbaijan, particularly after the April 2011 anti-government protests. Six Azerbaijani opposition activists were sentenced on August 25 to up to three years in prison.

Freedom House condemns the Azerbaijani government’s attempt to prevent NGOs from operating and displacement of citizens from their homes and businesses. We call on the Azerbaijani government to halt demolition and allow citizens to live, and civil society organizations to practice in a safe environment without fear of retaliation.

Learn more:
Freedom of the Press 2010: Azerbaijan