Letter to the Members of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Board on the Working Conditions of Civil Society
In light of the upcoming review of Azerbaijan's status in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in October,
the undersigned organisations call on the EITI Board to suspend Azerbaijan from participation in EITI, due to continuous breach
of the initiative’s requirements for fostering an enabling environment for civil society. The letter is published jointly
by 18 NGOs.
Helsingforskomiteen har arbeidet med olje-og gassrike Aserbajdsjan siden 1999. Vi overvåker menneskerettighetssituasjonen
i landet og observerer gjennomføringen av valg. Aserbajdsjan har hatt en svært negativ menneskerettighetsutvikling de siste
ti år og har siden 2003 blitt ledet av president Ilham Aliyev, som overtok makten da hans far Heydar døde samme år. De senere
år er ytringsfriheten systematisk krenket og flere journalister og redaktører har blitt fengslet. Landet har nå over 90 politiske
fanger, det har aldri vært holdt valg som kan anerkjennes som demokratiske, og politisk opposisjon er helt marginalisert.
Aserbajdsjan er fremdeles i konflikt med Armenia etter at Armenia okkuperte aserbajdsjansk territorium gjennom krigen over
Nagorno-Karabakh, og regionen regnes som ustabil. Flere hundre tusen internt fordrevne etter konflikten lever fremdeles i
midlertidige bosettinger eller i bosettinger hvor de holder adskilt fra øvrig befolkning. I 2014, ble Sakharovs Frihetspris
tildelt politiske fanger i Aserbaijdsjan.
Human rights defenders and former political prisoners Leyla and Arif Yunus from Azerbaijan have visited Norwegian Helsinki
Committee to join the “finissage” of the exhibition at Akershus Art Centre exhibiting art depicting the situation of political
prisoners in Azerbaijan. –Human rights are violated more than ever in our home country, Leyla Yunus said. –The numbers of
political prisoners keep increasing, and every year around ten prisoners die from torture and ill-treatment in the brutal
Amid reports of fraud and pressure against voters, Baku's Central Election Commission has preliminary announced an overwheling
victory for the amendments, which include an extension of the presidential term from five to seven years. The alarming consequences
of the constitutional amendments after yesterday´s referendum will increase the power of the President, dramatically weaken
democratic institutions and will further isolate and repress dissent in Azerbaijan. NHC has made a statement highly critical
of the amendments and calls for sanctions against the regime.
- The Azeri government have done their best to silence bloggers, journalists and human rights defenders. But they have been
unsuccesful. Several of the former political activists, like Khadija Ismayilova, Anar Mammadli and Intigam Aliyev are now
released from prison, and continue to work for a democratic Aserbaijan. This gives me hope that we can change the situation
in the country, said human rights defender Rasul Jafarov at the seminar "To Draw is to See" at the house of Literature monday
19. September. The seminar was a joint event between the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO), Akershus Art Centre, and
Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), and was organised in conjunction with the exhibition "The Big Draw - Drawing for Freedom"
which is displayed at Akershus Art Centre in the period 17. September- 16th of October.
The exhibition "The Big Draw – To draw is to See" at Akershus Art Centre finally opened last Saturday, with great success!
Magnificent art work from the students of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO) reflecting the problem of political
prisoners in Azerbaijan in the Drawing for Freedom project, alongside works of the well known and highly respected artist
Filip Markiewicz are now on display at Akershus Art Centre. The exhibition lasts until 16.10.
Sammen med Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo og Akershus Kunstsenter arrangerer Den norske Helsingforskomité seminaret "Å tegne er å se
- seminar om kunst og aktivisme" på Litteraturhuset i Oslo mandag 19. september klokken 13-15:30. Seminaret tar utgangspunkt
i utstillingen ”Drawing for Freedom” som vises på Akershus Kunstsenter i perioden 17.september- 16.oktober. I denne utstillingen
stiller studenter fra Kunsthøyskolen i Oslo (KHiO) ut arbeider knyttet til temaet politiske fanger i Aserbajdsjan.
Less than six weeks ahead of a constitutional referendum, the Azerbaijani authorities have unleashed a new wave of repression
to silence critical voices. NHC, as a Sport for Rights coalition member, condemns this renewed crackdown, and and joins the
call on the Azerbaijani authorities to take immediate steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, starting
with the release of political prisoners.
Today, the opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov spends his 46th birthday in one of the vile prisons in Azerbaijan, prisons which
have a history of housing dissidents. In May 2014, the European Court of Human Rights concluded, in a strongly worded judgment,
that the actual purpose of Mammadov’s detention “was to silence or punish Mammadov for criticizing the government.” Citing
that ruling, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has called repeatedly for Mammadov’s release. Yet the government,
which controls the courts, the parliament and the media, remains deaf to the calls.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in Azerbaijan to release Azerbaijan’s leading investigative
journalist Khadija Ismayilova. It’s indeed happy news to those who know Ismayilova and her important work as a courageous
journalist and civil society leader tirelessly exposing corruption in Azerbaijan, including activities involving the members
of the president Aliyev’s family. Her reporting had caused her arrest in December 2014.
The images of Ivanka Trump, posing in a sleek black dress and her signature stilettos at a construction sight of yet another
Trump tower in the capital of Baku did not surprise many. After all the Trump Tower business is known to invest all around
the world. The Trump Baku was her latest project with The Trump Organization. The company’s website features Istanbul, Panama
City, Seoul, Vancouver, and Toronto among its international real estate investment destinations. -Article researched and written
by Arzu Geybullayeva, with the support from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Our magnificent collection of art works in the exhibition we have called “Drawing for Freedom” this week exhibits at Defenders’
Days in Stockholm. The artworks, conceived by art students from the Academy of Fine Art of the Oslo National Academy of the
Arts, depict current and former political prisoners in Azerbaijan. We are very happy that newly released human rights defenders
Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov for the first time could see the works depicting themselves. Main illustration: Rasul Jafarov,
Anar Mammadli, freed human rights defenders, and the son of imprisoned human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, Necmin Kamil, in
front of the exhibition.
On March 17, Azerbaijan's authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev was merciful. He signed a long-awaited decree of pardon, which
was timed to mark the upcoming Novruz holiday. Aliyev pardoned 148 prisoners, among them 13 activists that human rights groups
have labeled as political prisoners.
Today marks 11 years since the murder of famous journalist Elmar Huseynov, who was a critical voice of the authoritarian Azerbaijan
government, writing on injustice, rampant corruption, state repression and many other human rights abuses.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the other undersigned members of the Sport for Rights coalition express serious concern
regarding the on-going disciplinary case against Yalchin Imanov, a prominent human rights lawyer in Azerbaijan. Any disciplinary
sanctions against the lawyer could severely undermine his independence as member of the legal profession and hinder his important
and legitimate professional activity.
On Tuesday 8 December, 2015 more than 30 works of art produced by Norwegian artists thematically related to political prisoners
in Azerbaijan were displayed at the main town hall (Hôtel de Ville) in Paris, France.
10 December: We — members of the Civic Solidarity Platform and the Sports For Rights Campaign — were relieved to learn that
one of Azerbaijan’s most well-known political prisoners, Leyla Yunus, was released from detention yesterday and that that
the Baku City Court of Appeal changed her sentence and that of her husband Arif into suspended sentences of 5 years, on probation.
In a joint press release after the parliamentary election in Azerbaijan 1 November, FIDH and Norwegian Helsinki Committee
(NHC) urge the international community to unanimously condemn the lack of civil and political freedoms in Azerbaijan, and
voice a strong support to its targeted civil society.
In September, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and the National Art Academy of Fine Arts Oslo (KHIO) jointly kicked
off an art project with focus on the political prisoners in Azerbaijan. More than 80 political prisoners are now behind bars
in the country, many of which were arrested while Azerbaijan was chairing the Council of Europe.
As a founding partner of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses
its concern over international election observation missions delegitimizing the institution of election observation as well
as damaging the reputation of those parliaments and international institutions that they represent.
On November 1, 2015, Azerbaijan will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. FIDH, OMCT and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
wishes to extend our deepest concern regarding the conditions in which the polls are being organised, which cannot meet international
standards for free and fair elections.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is planning to monitor the 1 November parliamentary elections in
Azerbaijan. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly opposes such a decision.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly condemns the sentencing of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova to a staggering
7,5 years in jail today. - We are shocked and saddened at yet another cruel decision to imprison one of the nations' finest
citizens. We call on this verdict to be nulled, and that Khadija is released from jail immediately. Failing the release of
Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and so many other poltical prisoners, we continue
to repeat that it is time to impose targeted sanctions against Azerbaijan´s main human rights perpetrators, says Secretary
General Bjørn Engesland.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the harsh sentences against the Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leila and Arif
Yunus. If the verdicts are not nullified immediately, then it is time to impose targeted sanctions against Azerbaijan´s main
human rights perpetrators.
Last night, on 23 June, the Summer 2015 session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) adopted the new monitoring
report on Azerbaijan, The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan, Resolution 2062 (2015). From a relatively
weak draft presented by the co-rapporteurs from Spain and Poland, the report was significantly improved by the adoption of
several important amendments during the session. Most significantly, the report now includes a demand for the release of political
prisoners in Azerbaijan, mentioning several of them by name.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the verdict against the renowned independent election observer Anar Mammadli, who
in a Baku court yesterday was sentenced to five and-a-half years in prison for tax evasion, illegal business activities, and
using their office to falsify election results.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee supports a letter sent to the President of the European Council Mr. Donal Tusk, sent from
the Sports for Rights campaign and supported by members of the European Parliament, urging Mr. Tusk to postpone his planned
visit to Azerbaijan this week, and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the country´s jailed journalists
and human reights defenders.
Today is the official opening of the European Games in Baku. To mark the opening ceremony, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee,
together with other organisations in the Human Rights House Oslo, is demanding the unconditional release of the country´s
jailed journalists, human rights defenders and activists.
A new list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has just been published. The list now comprises of 80 names, as compared to
the 98 which were included in the list published in August last year. Although this means that there have been some very welcome
releases, the Government of Azerbaijan continues its policy of imprisoning what they consider opponents. The last few weeks,
prominent human rights defenders Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev were convicted to many years' prison. In 2014, Political
Prisoners in Azerbaijan received the Sakharov Freedom Award from NHC.
The Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 ceremony was a tribute to the brave political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Relatives of the laureates
received the award in an emotional ceremony at Hotel Bristol on 13 November.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is among numerous NGOs who demand the release of imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists
and activists all considered political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The call comes after the human rights defender Rasul Jafarov
and human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev were sentenced to 6,5 and 7,5 years respectively in Baku. The charges against them
were trumped up and politically motivated, their trials deeply flawed.
On 21 April, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with European Stability Initiative, Forum 18 and the International
Federation for Human Rights will host the side event: For a Europe without political prisoners: The case of Azerbaijan, at
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Se full program below.
Young, prominent and dedicated human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, was convicted to six and a half years in prison in a Baku,
Azerbaijan court today. -It is hardly news anymore that human rights defenders are handed long prison sentences in Azerbaijan,
where punishing the dissent on bogus charges has become commonplace for the government in past years, Secretary General Bjørn
The “Coalition for Trust”, a three-year regional project funded by the European Commission and co-funded by the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started in late 2012 and works in all entities of the South Caucasus to restore confidence and
build people-to-people contact by opening up new perspectives on conflict transformation. The initiative is implemented on
the ground by local partner and associate organisations in the regions. NHC is working with the partners to develop and deliver
a broad-ranging educational programme for close to 300 students, journalists and civic activists.
- Western democracies should impose targeted sanctions against the Azerbaijani elite. Statements of concerns from European
leaders are only benefitting the Aliyev regime said Vugar Gojayev, human rights defender in exile and NHC project coordinator
in the discussion after the screening of Amazing Azerbaijan at the Human Rights Human Wrongs film festival on Saturday.
The government of Azerbaijan claims it supports religious tolerance but in reality seriously restricts freedom of religion
or belief. It uses a tolerance facade and denials of reality to camouflage serious human rights violations.
On Friday 5 December, another prominent civil society figure was arrested in Azerbaijan as a Baku court authorized investigative
journalist Khadija Ismayilova's pre-trial detention for two months on bogus charges of "inciting suicide". This shows that
there is no end to the assault on independent voices by the government of this oil rich country and provides further proof
of its disregard for founding values of the Council of Europe and its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Civil Solidarity Platform calls for the supsension of Azerbaijan for the Council of Europe
in a statement Saturday 6 December.
Yesterday's Sakharov Freedom Award seminar 2014 at the House of Literature in Oslo discussed what intergovernmental organizations
like the Council of Europe, states like Norway, businesses like Statoil, and human rights organizations can do with the ongoing
crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan and the imprisonment of human rights activists, journalists, political activists
on political grounds.
Helsingforskomiteen gir Andrej Sakharovs Frihetspris 2014 til politiske fanger i Aserbajdsjan. De utviser mot og stor innsats
i å fremme verdighet, demokratiske verdier og menneskerettigheter. Aserbajdsjan er et europeisk land som utvikler seg stadig
mer i retning av et diktatur. Prisen tildeles dem alle. Det er et trist faktum at det er alt for mange av dem til at vi kan
nevne hver og én.
Sous couvert de la guerre en Ukraine, la Russie et ses Etats voisins attaquent les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme et les
médias. Les Etats démocratiques doivent oeuvrer pour protéger les défenseurs en danger.
Don’t forget about the political prisoners in Russia, it can prevent them from being killed! This was the message from Nadezhda
Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, the two Pussy Riot/Zona Prava members that participated at the packed Norwegian Helsinki
Committee seminar Safeguarding international institutions against authoritarian abuse on 13 May.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is very pleased to learn that the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014 has been awarded to
the renowned Azerbaijani independent election observer and human rights defender Anar Mammadli.
The brutal attack on the journalist Ilgar Nasibov, in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, is an outrage, and Azerbaijan’s authorities
should ensure a prompt, effective and impartial investigation, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian
Helsinki Committee, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, People in Need, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights,
International Media Support, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters without borders said today.
Azerbaijan's independent civil society has for a long time been engaged in a major effort to go through the lists of possible
political prisoners in the country, to identify those that meet the criteria adopted by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary
Assembly. The list, containing as many as 98 names, was compiled under the leadership of Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov. Both
Leylas and Rasuls own names have been added to the list the last few weeks.
Update 12 August: The lawyer Intigam Aliyev was arrested Friday 8 August, and was the fourth human rights activist who in
a short time have been detained in Azerbaijan. This means that in the two last weeks, four of the most prominent human rights
defenders in Azerbaijan have been sent to prison, all under investigation for serious crimes and risking many years behind
bars if convicted. The four have all been outspoken critics of the regime of President Ilham Aliyev, and by the move Azerbaijan
once again shows a blatant contempt towards the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this, Azerbaijan currently holds
the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Council of Ministers.
On 2 August 2014 the prominent human rights defender Rasul Jafarov was arrested in Baku. Together with the Civic Solidarity
Platform, a coalition of 60 human rights NGOs of the OSCE region, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee calls upon the authorities
of Azerbaijan to release the human rights defender Rasul Jafarov and stop putting pressure on the civil society of the country.
Read the statement in full below.
A vision of a Europe with out political prisoners gathered activists and policy makers on 2 June in Berlin for a conference
organised by European Stability Initiative (ESI). Senior European policy makers, parliamentarians, and human rights activists
gathered to discuss what different institutions – the Council of Europe, the European Union and international human rights
organisations – must do to realise the vision of a Europe without political prisoners in the near future. NHC was a supporter
of the conference and secretary General Bjørn Engesland a speaker.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the detention of prominent Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus and raises
the alarm she may be facing arrest and criminal charges. Late last night we learned that Leyla Yunus and her husband, historian
Arif Yunus were detained at the airport as they were leaving for a conference abroad. They were refused exit from the country,
their luggage and home were searched. Leyla Yunus has been interrogated through the night at the general prosecutors’ office
in Baku; Arif has been taken to a hospital for medical treatment.
In a statement the Civic Solidarity Platform and the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) condemn the harsh
response by the Azerbaijani authorities to recent protests in the country. They call on the Council of Europe to ensure that
Azerbaijan respects its human rights obligations as a member state and stop punishing critical voices, including human rights
defenders and journalists. NHC is a member of bothe the Civil Solidarity Platform and IPGA and we support the statement.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee, of behalf of the Norwegian NGO Forum for Human Rights, has submitted the annual recommendations
to the Government of Norway on human rights at United Nations. The recommendations are particularly directed towards Norway's
efforts before the UN Human Rights Council, but are relevant also to other UN bodies.
On 16 December 2013 Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, Baku (EMDS) and board
member of the network European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) was arrested and given a three months pre-trial detention
at the Nasimin District Court in Baku.
After a run-up marked by flagrant violations of political pluralism and freedom of information, President Ilham Aliyev’s reelection
by an overwhelming majority on 10 October 2013, in a poll that the OSCE considered “seriously flawed”, has been followed by
new crackdown on the media. The daily newspaper Azadliq, one of the few remaining opposition news outlets, is now in danger
of succumbing to efforts to throttle it financially. NHC joins other human rights defenders in voicing concern at the situation.
The European Platform for Democratic Elections protests against the intimidation of its member organization, the Election
Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku. We are worried that the investigations led by the Prosecutor general’s
office, have political motives, a reaction to the critical statements made by EMDS after the recent Presidential elections
in Azerbaijan. - As a member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections, we join the protests and we are very worried
to see that another efficient election monitoring NGO is targeted by the authorities, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Last April, Russian partner Golos was convicted for failing to comply with NGO-legislation and failing to register as 'foreign
In a surprising statement after last week's elections in Azerbaijan, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council
of Europe Parliamentary Assembly concluded that they had observed "free, fair and transparent electoral process". They did
this despite the widespread and reliable reports of fraud, pressure against voters and other manipulations. - We find it quite
astonishing that European parliamentary delegation members, who should defend the voters' right to democratic elections, instead
choose to look away from the facts of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, secretary general Bjørn Engesland says. Together
with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) we have made a statement criticizing the delegations.
In a joint call issued today on the eve of the Presidential election, 22 human right organisations and press freedom campaigners
warn that the failure of the government of Azerbaijan to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, undermines
the democratic legitimacy of the government. - Azerbaijan should take immediate action to ensure fundamental rights are protected
ahead of the election, including by releasing journalists, political activists and human rights defenders, to ensure the election
is free and fair, NHCs Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says.
In a letter to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyevin and the Prosecutor General Zakir, Norwegian Helsinki Committee,
along with several Human Rights NGOs, express a profound concern regarding the continued harassment and intimidation of investigative
journalist Khadija Ismayilova and the resulting interference in her work. - We urge the President of Azerbaijan to take immediate
steps to ensure a prompt, thorough, effective and transparent investigation into the threats made against the journalist Khadija
Ismayilova, as well as ensuring the effectiveness of the current investigation into the violation of Ismayilovas right to
privacy, Secretary general Bjørn Engesland says.
An extensive five-day training seminar for Belarusian journalists opens in Vilnius today. We also issue an appeal to the UNESCO
Director-General Irina Bokova to put forward an initiative for the release of imprisoned Azerbaijani editor Eynulla Fattullayev.
In a statement published 29 April, NHC and the International Partnership Group on Azerbaijan urges the member states of the
United Nations to hold Azerbaijan accountable during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 30 April 2013 for its failure
to protect basic human rights. The International Partnership Group on Azerbaijan, in which NHC is a partner, urge the UN to
take Azerbaijan to task for failing to implement the commitments it made after its first review in 2009. Read the full statement
In a statement today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has joined two large civil society networks, the Civic Solidarity Platform
and the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan together with local organizations condemning the latest campaign against
freedom of expression and association in Azerbaijan. – We are extremely concerned about the situation, it just seems that
there is no end to the steps the authorities are willing to take to retain power firmly in hand, Secretary general Bjørn Engesland
Since the start of the year, Azerbaijani authorities have broken up rallies arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders.
Journalists, writers and bloggers have been harassed and 75 year-old acclaimed author Akram Aylisli has been subjected to
severe threats even from the members of the national parliament. Proposals for restrictive legislation, running counter to
international standards for freedom of association and expression, has been fielded. – Bearing in mind that presidential elections
in Azerbaijan is just months away, the development is not acceptable and will undermine any hopes of democratic progress in
the country, Engesland continues.
The International Partnership Group, coordinated by ARTICLE 19, along with Amnesty International, Norwegian Helsinki Committee
and several Azerbaijani and international NGOs urges the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to make a
strong call for Azerbaijan to improve its deteriorating human rights record. On Wednesday 23 January, the vote on two crucial
resolutions on Azerbaijan will be an opportunity for the Assembly to show its genuine commitment to its human rights principles.
- We are concerned with the reports that a conference aiming at discussing freedom of the internet allows restrictions on
contributions from civil society – input that would contribute to a more open and relevant discussion, says Bjørn Engesland,
Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. - One would think that the authorities had learned from the discussions
that surrounded the Eurovision Song Contest that such restrictions and violations do not pass unnoticed, and do not reflect
positively on the country’s image.
We are currently seeking a highly qualified person to be the regional coordinator of the (EU-funded) program “Coalition for
trust” in the South Caucasus. The aim of the program is to contribute to building knowledge and trust between people in a
region marked by conflict and human rights violations. Activities include education and training, network building, advocacy
The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (the IPGA), has launched its website www.AzerbaijanFreeXpression.org ahead
of this week’s Eurovision Song Competition in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, present in Baku this week,
is a member of the coalition.
Together with several international human rights organisations, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly condemns the brutal
attack on the Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov and four other journalists on 18 April 2012. In a letter adressed to President
Ilham Aliyev the NHC demands that the Azerbaijani authorities launch an immediate, independent and transparent investigation
into these brutal attacks. Read the letter in full below.
Today marks the launch of a new report by the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA), Running Scared: Azerbaijan’s
Silenced Voices. The report highlights the climate of fear and pervasive self-censorship in Azerbaijan, with few brave journalists,
bloggers and activists remaining. In the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in May, the IPGA calls on the international
community to engage the Azerbaijani authorities on these issues now. The NHC is a member of the IGPA network, and you can
download the report below.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) condemns the blackmail and continued
harassment of one of the few independent investigative journalists working in Azerbaijan, Khadija Ismayilova. The most recent
episode in the harassment campaign involves a one minute film of an intimate nature being posted on the internet on Wednesday
March 14). A week earlier Ismayilova said she had received a letter including intimate photographs and a threat, stating "Whore,
behave. Or you will be defamed”. Ismayilova has refused to give in to the blackmail attempts.
Today marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of Monitor editor-in-chief Elmar Huseynov, who was fatally gunned down in
his apartment building in a well-organised attack in 2005. Since Elmar Huseynov’s murder, there have been dozens of violent
attacks against journalists in Azerbaijan, including the murder of prominent journalist and writer Rafig Tagi in November
2011. None of these attacks have been seriously investigated or prosecuted, resulting in a climate of impunity for those who
wish to use violence to silence critical voices. Elmar Huseynov's widow has complained the apparent inactivity of the Azerbaijani
Government to the European Court of Human Rights.
Member organisations of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) are deeply concerned by the continued politically
motivated imprisonment of persons in Azerbaijan for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The IPGA calls on the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to take immediate action to ensure the release of these persons and
to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its obligations as a Member State.
(16/10-2008) - Yesterdays' presidential election in the Republic of Azerbaijan took place in an environment where free and
fair elections are not possible, says head of information in The Norwegian Helsinki Committee Berit Lindeman, who is currently
in Baku monitoring the election. Some of the basic conditions for holding elections are public debate, a free press and equal
conditions for all political forces in the country. Neither is present in Azerbaijan, says Lindeman.
(08/03-2008) Ordene tilhører Rauf Mirgadirov, som nylig fikk Fritt Ord prisen for 2008. I går besøkte han Helsingforskomiteen.
Mirgadirov er politisk kommentator i den russiskspråklige dagsavisen Zerkalo og dens aserbajdsjanskspråklige utgave Ayna,
og er en av de viktigste politiske kommentatorene i Aserbajdsjan. Mirgadirov har klare meninger om hvordan Norge bør forholde
seg til Aserbajdsjan: - Norge og vesten må stille langt hardere krav i dialogen med aserbajdsjanske myndigheter. Den diplomatiske
enigheten som preger den dialogen, må forlates. Utviklingen går ikke i riktig retning, og Norge og vesten bør i langt større
grad true, og sette i verk, sterke sanksjoner mot myndighetene, uttalte Mirgadirov.
Withdraw the claim against the human rights defender Leila Yunus immediately
(21/01-2009) Authorities of the republic of Azerbaijan should immediately withdraw a libel case against the internationally
renowned human rights defender Leila Yunus, the Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy.
She has for a long time extensively criticised human right violations in Azerbaijan. The complaint against her is based on
an interview where she pointed out that several officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been convicted for kidnapping
a few years ago. The statements where published on the web-page Day.az on December 3, 2008. - The rights of Leila Yunus to
make the statements that made the Ministry of Interior bring the libel case against her, is protected by freedom of expression
provisions that are binding on Azerbaijan. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both protects expressions critical of governments and Ministry officials, says Bjørn
Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. "Little respect for freedom of expression and strong media
control in Azerbaijan is causing great concern and has attracted considerable international criticism during recent years.
The libel case brought against Leyla Yunus contributes to aggravating an already serious situation."
Three of the prize winners for this years press prizes ”Free Press of Russia” and ”Free Press of Eastern Europe”, was nominated
by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The winners were announced by The Freedom of Expression Foundation of Oslo and the ZEIT
Foundation of Hamburg this monday. The Russian journalist Zoya Svetova, the azerbaijani journalist Natiq Gavadli and the Azerbaijani
newspaper Azaliq will receive their prizes together with the other winners at the Norwegian Nobel Institute on 3 june.
(24/09-2009) The Rafto Prize for 2009 goes to journalist and human rights activist Malahat Nasibova. The Norwegian Helsinki
Committee would like to congratulate Malahat Nasibova with this years Rafto Price. The prize will hopefully lead to a greater
focus on the grave situation for independent press and human rights in Azerbaijan.
(19/03-2009) The Referendum over Constitutional amendments in the Republic of Azerbaijan took place in an atmosphere of intimidation
of voters and of all those who opposed the reform of the Constitution. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has listened to numerous
witnesses recounting how they have been subjected to pressure to coerce them to go the vote during yesterdays’ poll. The hastily
called referendum was never subjected to a meaningful public debate, which would have allowed for raising any relevant concerns
related to the Constitutional reforms. The speedy procedure also puts into question the legality of the called referendum.
(09/11-2009) The Human Rights House Foundation, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Rafto Foundation, the South Caucasus
Network of Human Rights Defenders and the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius are concerned about the noticeable
tendency in Azerbaijan to put local non-governmental organisations under increased government control following the recent
amendments to the NGO law. The amended law allows the government to collect information on NGOs without referring to any specific
purpose articulated in this or other laws. This concern was expressed in a letter the above mentioned organisations sent to
the Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov on friday 6 November.
(26/11-2009) Today, the CoE Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) publishes the report of its ad hoc visit to Azerbaijan
in December 2008. Even though visits were conducted also in 2004, 2005 and 2006 the Government of Azerbaijan has not agreed
to publish any of the reports since 2002. The delegation visited several places of detention as well as hospitals and psychiatric
institutions and received several credible allegations from prisoners of deliberate physical ill-treatment and excessive use
of force by prison officers. The delegation also revealed insufficient health care systems, overcrowding and excessive use
on confinement of prisoners to the cell. Although some improvements to the physical conditions of places of detention was
observed, the conditions in non-refurbished ward remains poor.
(16/12-2009) Two employees of the Nakhchivan-based “Democracy and NGO Development Resource Center” were attacked and seriously
beaten by an orchestrated group of athletic mobsters on 15 December. Both NGO activists, Ilgar Nasibov and Vafadar Eyvazov
were trying to arrange a seminar in the University as part of the project funded by the Norwegian Embassy to combat widespread
corruption at Nakhchivan State University. At that time, a group of some fifty sportsmen studying at Sport faculty of the
University urged the activists to leave the University campus. When refused, the sportsmen dragged out the activists and fell
them down and beat them heavily. Malahat Nasibova, 2009 Rafto award-winning journalist of «Azadliq» radio (Azerbaijani service of RFERL), who also heads the
“Democracy and NGO development Resource Center”, said her husband Ilgar Nasibov and employee Vafadar Eyvazov suffer from rib
fractures caused by heavy injuries on abdominal cavity and spine.
Request for immediate and unconditional release of Eynulla Emin Fatullayev
(26/04-2010) In a letter to the government of Azerbaijan, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with members of the Human
Rights House Network call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately execute the decision of the European Court of Human
Rights from 22 April 2010 in the case ‘Fatullayev v. Azerbaijan’ (application no 40984/07), to release the journalist from
detention and compensate him for the damages he has suffered.
(29/06-2010) On 24 June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Resolution 1750 on the functioning
of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan. ARTICLE 19, the Human Rights House Foundation, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom
and Safety, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee welcome the adoption of the resolution. We call upon the Azerbaijani government
to implement the recommendations contained in the resolution, and urge PACE to sustain its efforts to monitor the human rights
situation in Azerbaijan.
(01/10-2010) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee will be very active during the Warsaw Human Dimension Session of the 2010 OSCE
Review conference the first week of October. This is the first part of a three-part review conference ahead of the OSCE Summit
to be held in Astana on 1-2 December 2010, in which NHC also will take part. Project-coordinator Lene Wetteland and recently
appointed program manager of our Almaty office Parvina Abduvakhobova will be at the conference and will present several NHC
A call for the release of editor Eynullah Fatullayev
(22/10-2010) -We call upon your government to fully comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment, including by
immediately and unconditionally releasing Mr Fatullayev. We further urge your government to do its utmost to ensure Mr Fatullayev’s
health and safety in detention, in accordance with Azerbaijan’s international legal obligations. Eleven international NGOs,
including Norwegian Helsinki Committee, today urges the President of Azerbaijan to comply with the judgment of the European
Court of Human Rights. On 4 October the Azerbaijani Government's request for a referral to the Grand Chamber was rejected
by the Court, and the imprisoned editor is now on a hunger strike. In July, Fatullayev was convicted on new and highly improbable
charges, this time for drug possession while in prison.
President Ilham Aliyev The Presidential Palace Istiqlaliyyat Street 19 Baku 1066 Azerbaijan
Via facsimile: +994 12 492 3543 and +994 12 492 0625 Via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear President Aliyev,
ARTICLE 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Human Rights House Foundation, Index on Censorship, Institute
for War and Peace Reporting, International Federation of Journalists, Media Diversity Institute, Norwegian Helsinki Committee,
and Reporters Without Borders are writing to express our strong concern regarding the continued imprisonment of Editor-in-chief
Eynulla Fatullayev, which constitutes a breach of Azerbaijan’s international legal obligations and a violation of Mr Fatullayev’s
As a member state of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is obligated
to comply with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. As you are aware, on 22 April this year, the European Court
ruled that Mr Fatullayev’s imprisonment constituted a violation of his freedom of expression and right to a fair trial and
ordered the Azerbaijani Government to immediately release him and to pay him €27,822 for damages and legal expenses. Since
the request of the Azerbaijani Government to have the case referred to the Grand Chamber was rejected on 4 October, the European
Court’s decision in the case has become effective.
We are deeply disturbed by the latest charge against Mr Fatullayev of drug possession, for which he currently remains in prison.
As Miklos Haraszti publicly stated as OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media in December 2009, this charge is “highly
improbable”, and “aimed at pre-empting the European Court of Human Rights’ [then] expected verdict”.
We call upon your government to fully comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment, including by immediately and
unconditionally releasing Mr Fatullayev. We further urge your government to do its utmost to ensure Mr Fatullayev’s health
and safety in detention, in accordance with Azerbaijan’s international legal obligations.
Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19 Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists Paula Schriefer, Director of Advocacy, Freedom House Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, Human Rights House Foundation Rohan Jayasekera, Associate Editor and Deputy Chief Executive, Index on Censorship Tony Borden, Executive Director, Institute for War and Peace Reporting Aidan White, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists Milica Pesic, Executive Director, Media Diversity Institute Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee Jean-François Julliard, Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders Virginie Jouan, Executive Director, Press Freedom and Media Development, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
CC: Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov Inshaatchilar Avenue 1 Baku, Azerbaijan Via facsimile: +994 12 430 0981 Via e-mail: email@example.com
(22/06-2010) In connection with the June 2010 session of the Council of Europa Parliamentary assembly (PACE) the Norwegian
Helsinki Committee and Human Rights House Foundation have initiated an update of our joint statement on the human rights situation
in Azerbaijan. The statement was delivered to all PACE delegations as well as key rapporteurs and experts during the session.
Grave attack against freedom of expression
(11/05-2010) Together with the Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian PEN, English PEN, Norwegian Union of Journalists,
Rafto Foundation, Index of Censorship and ARTICLE 19, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemn the illegal confiscation of
material and documentary footage from the Norwegian filmmaker Erling Borgen and the cameraman Dag Inge Dahl in Baku Airport
on May 6, 2010. We call upon Azerbaijani authorities to honour Azerbaijan’s international human rights obligations and restore
the seized property to the owners.
(10/12-2010) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is among the members of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan who
is deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani government’s failure to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in
the case of imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev. These international organisations welcome the Council of
Europe Committee of Ministers’ recent decision in Fatullayev’s case and call on the Azerbaijani government to mark International
Human Rights Day by immediately and unconditionally releasing Fatullayev from prison.
(17/11-2010) Last week, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court decided that imprisoned opposition editor Eynullah Fattullayev would
not be released from prison, despite repeated calls from the Council of Europe and other international organisations. In April
this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the sentence issued in 2007 of 8 ½ years imprisonment for, amongst
other, terrorism and defamation, had violated his right to freedom of expression and a fair trial. The Azerbaijani government
brought the decision to the Court’s Grand Chamber, from which it was dismissed.
(27/01-2010) This week the Norwegian Helsinki Committee presents its report Azerbaijan's Dark Island: Human Rights violations
in Nakchivan at the winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). NHC’s Berit Lindeman and Vugar
Gojaev accompanies the 2009 Rafto award winner Malahat Nasibova from Nakhchivan and her husband. Ane Bonde of the Human Rights
House Foundation is also part of the delegation. The purpose of the visit to PACE is to raise the grave human rights situation
in Nakhchivan as well as the media situation in general in Azerbaijan. - The Council of Europe has the potential of playing
an important role for the improvement of human rights in Azerbaijan. In January nine years ago, Azerbaijan became a full member
of this European human rights body, on condition of improving several areas of its democracy and human rights conduct. Azerbaijan
has largely failed to fulfill its commitment, and we believe that the Council of Europe may intensify its efforts to push
the Azerbaijani Government into taking real steps to secure the rule of law for Azerbaijani citizens and to allow or a free
press, Lindeman says. – We will hold meetings with the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, the
PACE rapporteur on Azerbaijani affairs Andres Herkel, the Norwegian delegation to the Parliamentary assembly and a number
of others in Strasbourg.
Prominent Azerbaijani journalist and writer, Rafiq Tagi, died in Baku on 23 November from the injuries he sustained during
a brutal knife attack four days earlier. Rafiq’s death on 23 November – the world’s first International Day to End Impunity–
is a chilling reminder of the dangers faced by journalists in Azerbaijan. As the Azerbaijan freedom of expression community
mourns the loss of Rafiq, the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) calls for an end to the cycle of impunity
in the country and for an independent, impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.
In connection with today’s meeting in preparation of the upcoming meeting of the EU-Azerbaijan Subcommittee on Justice, Liberty,
Security and Human Rights and Democracy (Brussels, 24-25 November 2011) the Norwegian Helsinki Committee participates while
presenting a paper outlining some the main challenges of human rights in Azerbaijan. We have in particular emphasized the
deficiencies in the rule of law and the sharp increase in the number of political prisoners in the country. We also present
a list of political prisoners and bring up the lawless situation in the Autonomous republic of Nakhchivan.
On 2 October a Baku court convicted Arif Hajili, Chairman of the Musavat Party, Tural Abbasli, head of Musavats youth wing
and Mahammad Majidli of the Popular Front Party to two and a half years in prison. They were convicted for “promoting social
unrest” in connection with the 2 April pro-democracy protests. Their convictions adds to an already long list of political
convictions in Azerbaijan in 2011, and comes just days after the Norwegian Helsinki Committee called for the release of Azerbaijani
political prisoners at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is actively and well represented at this years' OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
in Warsaw. In our interventions at the meeting we will focus on freedom of religion in Central Asia, rule of law in Azerbaijan,
Belarus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and freedom of expression in Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia. We are organising a side-event
on lack of justice after major human rights violations in Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Additionally we organise
a side-event on strikers' rights in Kazakhstan and we are also co-organising a side-event with particular focus on Ales Bialiatski
and the release of political prisoners in Belarus. Below you will find links to the HDIM webpage, all documents from our side-events
and interventions and other relevant links.
The office of the NGO Institute for Peace and Democracy led by prominent human rights defender Leyla Yunus was demolished
totally within an hour starting around 8:30 p.m. local time last night. The building was privately owned by Leyla Yunus and
her husband, the historian Arif Yunus. Bulldozers arrived without warning and within little more than an hour nothing was
left of the building that for years served as the premises for important human rights activity in Azerbaijan, including a
crisis center for women and fight against the extensive violation of property rights.
Last week, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee hosted a delegation of Azeri, Belarusian, Russian and international human rights
defenders. They took part in seminars arranged by the NHC at the Norwegian parliament Stortinget and the Fritt Ord Foundation.
In their recomendations to the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE and Stortinget, they called for a sharpening
of human rights policies towards Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia.
Helsingforskomiteen har overlevert notat til statssekretær Espen Barth Eide med en rekke anbefalinger for hvilke spørsmål
den norske delegasjonen må reise med Aserbajdsjan 6. - 8 juni samt konkrete forslag til program. Vi har navngitt flere politiske
fanger som bør løslate. Vi har blant annet foreslått at delegasjonen besøker den nylig løslatte redaktøren Eynulla Fattulayev
og oppsøker graven til den myrdede Elmar Huseynov. Notatet er også sendt til Olje-og energiminister Ola Borten Moe og til
Kronprins Haakon. Barth Eide har lovet å strekke seg langt for å få løftet menneskerettigheter på agendaen under besøket i
Eynulla Fattulayev returned to his home last night after spending more than four years in prison in Azerbaijan for writing
articles critical to the regime. The European Court of Human Rights demanded his release more than one year ago, instead,
however, he was convicted of further charges. The NHC is pleased to congratulate Eynulla and welcome him back to freedom.
The case shows that pressure against the authorities works. The pressure must continue.
I et brev til H.K.H Kronprins Haakon ber Den norske Helsingforskomité om at H.K.H. Kronprinsen velger ikke å delta som planlagt
ved åpningen av den årlige olje- og gassmessen International Caspian Oil & Gas Exhibition & Conference 6.-7.juni 2011 i Baku,
Aserbajdsjan, da deltakelsen vil kunne gi signaler som kan misbrukes av ett av Europas siste og mest autoritære regimer. Raftostiftelsen
og Human Rights House Foundation slutter seg til anmodningen til Kronprinsen.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev is a 29-year old Harvard-graduate who organized the Facebook-event "Great Peoples Day" on March 11, calling
people to join the Facebook-group and to protest the government. Officially, he was convicted for evading military service.
However, with this sentence, the Azerbaijani Government has added another political prisoner to its already long list of convicted
activists and journalists.
The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) condemns the 4 May 2011 conviction of youth activist Jabbar Savalan,
who was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment on politically motivated charges of drug possession. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
is among the NGOs behind the statement comdemning the latest conviction of a youth activist in Azerbaijan.
At these exceptional times – when authoritarian regimes are falling or are under serious pressure by democratic forces in
the Middle East and North Africa – we witness that Europe’s last authoritarian states are successful in retaining control
and undermining democratic developments.
Around 1000 protesters defied warnings and participated in the unsanctioned 2 April anti-government rally on the Fountain
Square in Central Baku, Azerbaijan. Riot police of the oil rich country were quick to disperse the rally with their usual
batons and arrested several dozens, including at least ten journalists.
Azerbaijan has blatantly flouted its international commitments by keeping Fatullayev behind bars. This not only undermines
the Council of Europe’s credibility but erodes press freedom for all Council members. Sanctions are appropriate if Azerbaijan
continues to mock the rule of law and hold Fatullayev
Norwegian Helsinki Committee, as one of the member organisations of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan, condemns
the recent wave of arrests of youth activists and bloggers in connection with planned pro-democracy protests in the country,
and call for their immediate release.
(30/10-2006) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights House Foundation have nominated satirical journalist Sakit
Zahidov (from Azadlik) and TURAN Information Agency from Azerbaijan as candidates for the Promotional Reward of The Freedom
of Expression Foundation Young Press of Russia.