Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Azerbaijan Watch

The aim of Azerbaijan Watch project is to raise awareness of the situation in the country, in particular in relation to the freedom of expression and freedom of the media. In this section we will be reviewing the developments affecting the civil society in Azerbaijan.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments Pose a Risk for Human Rights in Azerbaijan

20 July 2016

Constitutional amendments proposed by the President of Azerbaijan intend to increase the presidental term. Proposed amendments will also restrict freedoms and human rights in Azerbaijan, which has the poorest human rights record among the Council of Europe countries - by Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre

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Steering Committee Welcomes the Release of Khadija Ismayilova

26 May 2016

The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum welcomes the long-awaited release of the investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova from prison. Ms Ismayilova was unjustly persecuted and imprisoned for her journalistic work and served 1.5 years of a 7.5-year prison sentence. Since her sentence has only been reduced to a suspended 3.5-year term, the Committee calls on the authorities to drop all charges against the journalist.

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Khadija Ismayilova Depicted on a Mural in Warsaw

24 May 2016

Khadija Ismayilova is depicted on a mural by Dariusz Paczkowski, which was unveiled in Warsaw at the corner of Al. Prymasa Tysiąclecia and ul. Obozowa today. Khadija is a journalist and political prisoner currently serving a 7.5 year prison term in Azerbaijan. The mural is an initiative of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka), Polish Green Network and Klamra Foundation (Fundacja KLAMRA).

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Imprisoned Azerbaijani Journalist Khadija Ismayilova Wins Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

04 May 2016

Khadija Ismayilova, imprisoned investigative Azerbaijani journalist, is this year’s UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize laureate.

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Former Political Prisoners Call for Structural Reforms in Azerbaijan

26 April 2016

The recently freed human rights activists and civil society representatives Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov and Anar Mammadli released a joint statement sharing their concern over the state of democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan and called for political reforms.

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Panama Leaks Expose Hidden Wealth of Azerbaijan’s Ruling Family

05 April 2016

The recently released Panama leaks revealed links of the family of Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, to substantial wealth hidden through off-shore schemes

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Opinion Pieces by Khadija Ismayilova and Intigam Aliyev on Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan

04 April 2016

Intigam Aliyev, the recently released human rights lawyer, and an investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova who remains imprisoned wrote opinions on political prisoners in Azerbaijan for POLITICO and the Washington Post respectively.

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EaP CSF Welcomes the Conditional Release of Intigam Aliyev in Azerbaijan

30 March 2016

The Eastern Partnership Civil Society welcomes the release of the Director of the Legal Education Society and a prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev in Azerbaijan. However, the decision by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan is only the first step towards rectifying injustices incurred by Mr Aliyev who is yet to be cleared of all charges and other prisoners of conscience.

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EaP CSF Welcomes Release of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan, Calls for Lifting Restrictions on CSOs Activities

18 March 2016

The Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum welcomes the release of several political prisoners, including our colleague Anar Mammadli, in Azerbaijan on the occasion of the Novruz holiday. This gesture marks a first step towards the establishment of a relationship of trust between the government and civil society at large in Azerbaijan.

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The European Court for Human Rights Announces Two Decisions on Azerbaijani Activists

11 February 2016

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared on 11 February two decisions on Azerbaijan: the ECHR upheld the joint complaint of Ilham Huseynli, Elchin Salimov and Ahmadzade Ibrahim, and also granted the appeal of youth activists – Agasif Ibragimov, Emin Farhadi and Jamil Hajiyev. The European Court found violations of their rights under Articles 11(freedom of association), 6(right to a fair hearing), and 5(right to liberty and security) and ruled that the government of Azerbaijan is obliged to pay them compensation.

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IPHR and OSEPI Roundtable and Report Presentation on Human Rights Defenders in Azerbaijan

21 January 2016

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) together with the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI) co-organized on 19 January 2016 the expert discussion Justice Behind Bars: The Persecution of Civil Society in Azerbaijan that featured the presentation of the new report with the same title published by IPHR in December 2015.

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Steering Committee Welcomes the Release of Leyla Yunus and Invites for Renewal of Cooperation between Government and Civil Society in Azerbaijan

18 December 2015

The Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum welcomes the decision of the government of Azerbaijan to transfer the human rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus from prison to home on health grounds in hope that this step will be followed in the cases of other imprisoned human rights defenders and representatives of civil society in such a way that they will be able to return home and normally continue their activities. 

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Human Rights Defender Leyla Yunus Released from Jail on Health Grounds

10 December 2015

Following the ruling of Baku Court of Appeal to suspend the 8.5-year-sentence, prominent human rights activist Leyla Yunus was freed from prison due to her deteriorating health. Despite the release, the charges against her and her husband Arif Yunus, who was conditionally freed on 12 November, are still maintained and their rights not fully restored.

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Azerbaijani Human Rights Activist Arif Yunus Was Released on Health Grounds

13 November 2015

Azerbaijani human rights activist Arif Yunus, sentenced earlier this year to a seven year prison term, was released on health grounds on 12 November. His wife, Leyla who is serving an eight and a half prison term remains in jail, being one of up to 100 political prisoners in the energy rich state, which is currently conducting a crackdown on civil society organizations working to defend human rights. 

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In Azerbaijan the Ruling Party wins the Parliamentary Elections Boycotted by Opposition and International Observers

03 November 2015

In the parliamentary elections of 1 November, the ruling New Azerbaijan party won at least 70 seats in the 125-seat parliament, with the rest taken by small parties and candidates loyal to President Ilham Aliyev as the opposition refused to participate in the elections after the pre-election period marked by massive violations.

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Two Amnesty International Delegates Detained at the Border and Expelled from Azerbaijan

12 October 2015

According to Amnesty International, two of its delegates, both Georgian nationals, have been detained at the airport in Baku while trying to enter Azerbaijan on 7 October. They were later deported by immigration authorities from the country.

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Council of Europe Decides to Withdraw from the Task Force on Human Rights Issues in Azerbaijan

08 October 2015

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland informed the Committee of Ministers yesterday that due to continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, the organization is compelled to withdraw its representative from the joint working group on human rights issues in the country.

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Amnesty International Raises Awareness of Human Rights Violations in Azerbaijan

24 September 2015

Amnesty International published this year two reports deploring the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. These reports witness the mounting persecution of HR defenders and activists in Azerbaijan and the significantly diminished space for civil society, where it could discuss, or criticize government policies.

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Parliament of Azerbaijan Reacts to the EP Resolution and Decides to Withdraw from the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

23 September 2015

In an extraordinary session held on 14 September, Azerbaijan’s Parliament (Milli Majlis) reacted to the European Parliament (EP) resolution on Azerbaijan adopted few days earlier, on 10 September. The EP resolution addresses the deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan, by raising the question of sanctions against judges and politicians involved in the persecution of citizens for political reasons and by calling on the European External Action Service and the EU Member States to abstain from sending observers to the upcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan.

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ODIHR Cancels its Election Observation Mission to Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan

14 September 2015

OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) had to cancel its election observation mission for the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan scheduled for 1 November 2015 due to considerable limitations imposed by Azerbaijani authorities on the number of allowed observers. The announcement was recently made by the ODIHR director Michael Georg Link who stated with regret that the deployment of ODIHR mission had to be revoked because “the restriction on the number of observers taking part would make it impossible for the mission to carry out effective and credible election observation”.

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European Parliament Adopts Resolution on ‪‎Azerbaijan

10 September 2015

The adoption of the resolution of the European Parliament (EP) focused on the human rights developments in the country heated the debate on the situation in Azerbaijan in the plenary. The EP called on Azerbaijan to respect and implement its commitments as a member of Council of Europe and comply with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings. 

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Khadija Ismayilova’s Spirit is not Broken by Prison Sentence of 7.5 Years

01 September 2015

Khadija Ismayilova,  a prominent Azerbaijani investigative journalist was found guilty of tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of power, and was sentenced to7.5 years in prison.  She publicly spoke out in court against the accusations she was facing and stated that her trial has failed to bring her down or keep her from working.

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Steering Committee Appalled by the Court Decision in the Cases of Leyla and Arif Yunus

20 August 2015

The Steering Committee (SC) of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, as much as the international community, is appalled by the news from Azerbaijan on the sentencing of Dr Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, historian and renowned human rights activist, and her husband, famous historian Dr Arif Yunus.

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Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus Receive Harsh Sentences

13 August 2015

Prominent human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus have been sentenced to 8.5 and 7 years in prison respectively on politically motivated charges. The Baku Grave Crimes court pronounced the verdict after a speedy hearing. The couple faced charges of large-scale fraud, forgery, tax evasion and illegal business.

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Arrests in Case of Rasim Aliyev's Death

12 August 2015

Police in Azerbaijan have arrested six people including Javid Huseynov, a leading Azeri footballer, suspected of severely beating Rasim Aliyev, a human rights activist and football reporter on August 9. Rasim Aliyev who was head of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) media monitoring group died in hospital the next day as a result of his injuries.

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Leyla and Arif Yunus to Go on Trial End of July

15 July 2015

The trial against the Azerbaijani human rights advocates Leyla and Arif Yunus is scheduled for 27 July as was announced at the preliminary hearing nearly a year after their arrest.

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OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku Discontinues Its Operations in Azerbaijan

06 July 2015

The OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku’s operations in Azerbaijan were discontinued on 4 July. The OSCE remains open to other forms of co-operation with Azerbaijan. The discontinuation is the result of the termination by Azerbaijan of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Project Co-ordinator in Baku between the government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE at the beginning of June followed by a month-long process.

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Commentary on the OSCE Office Closure in Baku

18 June 2015

Aleksandra Jarosiewicz, Senior Fellow at the Department for the Turkey, Caucasus and Central Asia of the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) comments on the closing of the OSCE’s Project Co-ordinator in Baku by Azerbaijani authorities.

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EIDHR Call for Proposals Aims to Strengthen Civil Society in Azerbaijan

17 June 2015

The EU Delegation to Azerbaijan is accepting applications within the EIDHR (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) call for proposals aiming to strengthen the role and capacities of civil society in Azerbaijan in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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Emin Huseynov Flies out of Azerbaijan on the Swiss Foreign Minister’s Jet

14 June 2015

On 12 June Azerbaijani journalist and media freedom advocate Emin Huseynov fled Azerbaijan on the plane of Switzerland’s foreign minister Didier Burkhalter. This happened a few hours after the opening ceremony of the European Games in Baku that Burkhalter attended. The journalist and rights activist was sheltered at the Swiss embassy in Azerbaijan for 10 months. He is currently in Bern and has to decide whether he wants to apply for asylum in Switzerland by September. In August 2014 when Switzerland allowed him to remain at its embassy for “humanitarian reasons” Huseynov had been sought by Azerbaijani prosecutors on charges of "illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion" and was facing up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

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It Is Time to Consider EU Sanctions against Azerbaijani Officials

08 June 2015

The level of suppression of civil society and independent media in Azerbaijan is now so intense that it is no longer possible to argue that sanctions - visa bans and freezing of assets in EU banks - should apply only to Belarusian officials and not to Azerbaijani officials. From Working Group 1 of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum alone, human rights defenders Intigam Aliev and Rasul Jafarov, not to mention former WG1 coordinator Anar Mammadli, have all been handed jail sentences of between 5 and 7 years. 

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New Regulations Covering Granting Activities – a Burden Too Heavy for Independent CSOs

28 May 2015

Under the recent amendments to Azerbaijan’s legislation covering CSO activity and granting policies, there are three requirements for a CSO to access a grant. CSO experience demonstrates that the preparation of the necessary documents requires considerable time and means.

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New Regulations on CSO Activity – Everyone is a Potential Criminal

27 May 2015

The fundamental laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On Non-governmental Organizations (Public Associations and Foundations)" and "On Grants" were adopted in 2000; in 2013, essential additions and amendments were suggested – they came into force in February 2015 after the relevant decree was signed by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

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Steering Committee's Letter to Ilham Aliyev Addresses the Conditions for CSOs Activity

22 May 2015

The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF SC) addressed the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in a letter urging him to take steps towards normalizing the activity of non-governmental organizations of Azerbaijan and in particular, of the National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum.

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Economic Research Center Offices in Baku Raided

15 May 2015

Azerbaijani authorities seized computers and documents during the raid on the offices of the Economic Research Center (ERC) on 13 May. According to the head of the Center Gubad Ibadoghlu, who is an EaP CSF member and former Member of the Steering Committee, these actions are a signal of the escalating government’s pressure on NGOs promoting democratic values.

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Steering Committee Demands Immediate and Unconditional Release of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan

24 April 2015

In light of the recent conviction of prominent Azerbaijani human rights defenders Intigam Aliyev and Rasul Jafarov to disproportionate prison sentences on questionable legal charges, the EaP CSF Steering Committee adopted a statement condemning these actions by the government and urging the European Union to act immediately.

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