IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Election Observation NGOs condemn harassment of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) by the Azerbaijani government
On 28 and 30 October 2013, after presidential elections in Azerbaijan, the chairman and two of the board members of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) were summoned for questioning to the Major Crimes Investigation Department of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan. They were told that the reason for the interrogation, was that organisations receiving large grants from foreign sources are under scrutiny. The investigators were particularly interested in the election observation work done in connection to the presidential elections and EMDS's critical conclusions of the election process.
Chairman of the International Cooperation of Volunteers public union (ICV), partner organization of EMDS, was also questioned in connection with election observation programme implemented jointly with EMDS.
On 31 October 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor General searched EMDS’s offices and as a result printed material, press releases, reports and programme and financial documents and two computers were confiscated.
According to a spokesperson of the Office of the Prosecutor General quoted by the Azeri-Press Agency, the Office “has started investigations regarding irregularities recorded.”
The participants of the conference on "Reporting on elections: Council of Europe Handbook for Civil Society Organisations" held on 14 November 2013 in Vilnius considers such actions as exerting pressure against civil society. This is unacceptable in the light of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s international commitments and calls the Office of the Prosecutor General to drop the investigation.
List of persons joining the letter of support:
10. Sergiy Tkachenko, Chief of the Board, DRO ‘Committee of Voters of Ukraine’, Donetsk (Ukraine)
11. Sinisa Bencun, Project Manager of the Center for Civic Initiatives
12. Anastasiya Matchanka, Director of Belarus Watch
13. Polina Brodik, Project Coordinator of Belarus Watch
14. Alina Stefanovic
15. Nicolae Panfil, Promo-LEX Association, (Moldova)
16. Dmitry Chernyh, Belarusian Helsinki Committee ‘RHRPA’, Minsk (Belarus)
17. Amanda Lovkvist, Deputy Secretary General, Swedish International Liberal Centre (Sweden)
18. Anushavan Nikoghosyan, Chairman of the NGO “You are not alone”, (Armenia)