Call for Azerbaijan to end crackdown on civil society and uphold Council of Europe Commitments
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and the Center for National and International Studies (CNIS) are gravely concerned at the unprecedented crackdown on civil society and democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan. This is particularly worrying given Azerbaijan’s recent appointment as chair of the Council of Europe, which serves as the region’s preeminent human rights body.
Azerbaijan’s government, indeed, is using a number of repressive tactics to silence dissent and destroy independent civil society associations in the country, which represents a violation to European traditional values. “Since May 2014, the government has opened criminal investigations and frozen the assets of over 20 national and international groups including the Center for National and International Studies (CNIS), Transparency International and Oxfam. As a result of the investigations, the vast majority of the organisations have ceased their operations or left the country, while the leaders of many of the national groups have been forced into exile”, said Leila Alieva, President of CNIS.
On the 17th October, Azerbaijan’s National Assembly passed new amendments to the laws governing the operations of civil society organizations that will enable relevant government ministries to individually approve all international grants to national civil society organisation or even to deny the approval, if the support goes against the interests of the state: thus, it will be impossible for CSOs to operate independently in the country.
Several activists were arrested for protesting against the government’s decisions, lawyer Intigam Aliyev of the Legal Education Society, Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD), her husband and historian Arif Yunus, and Rasul Jafarov, chair of the civil society group Human Rights Club. CIVICUS and CNIS urge the members of the Council of Europe to urgently address violations of the European Convention on Human Rights with Azerbaijan’s government, in order to see the activists released