IN THE SPOTLIGHT
EU Parliament condemns the persecution of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan
A resolution of the European Parliament on the persecution of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan was adopted by the plenary sitting in Strasbourg last week. In line with EaP CSF Steering Committee statements, the resolution condemns the recent crackdown on civil society by the Azerbaijani government, calls for the immediate release of human rights defenders and urges respect for democratic principles and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the EU’s cooperation with the country.
The resolution “calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to cease their harassment and intimidation of civil society organizations, opposition politicians and independent journalists and to refrain from interfering in or undermining their valuable work for the development of democracy in Azerbaijan”.
Among the persecuted human rights defenders mentioned in the resolution were active EaP CSF members Rasul Jafarov and Anar Mammadli, who have recently been detained on fabricated charges, as well as prominent civil society activists, Leila Yunus and Arif Junus. The resolution condemns their arrest and demands for their immediate and unconditional release.
In line with its concern for civil society in Azerbaijan, the resolution calls for amendments to NGO legislation with a view to simplifying registration of NGOs and repealing restrictive measures against them.
In addition, the parliament has expressed its regret for “the fact that the EU-Azerbaijan human rights dialogue has made no substantial progress as regards the human rights situation in the countries [and has called] on the EEAS to step up its dialogue with a view to making it effective and result oriented.”
To that end, it was re-affirmed that EU support for and cooperation with Azerbaijan must be conditional on the promotion of civil liberties and democratic reforms.
Azerbaijan is currently part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme and is in the process of negotiating an Association Agreement with the EU. Several bilateral and multilateral frameworks of cooperation are in place, including European Neighbourhood Action Plan.