NHC to PACE to raise urgent concerns over the situation in Azerbaijan
(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.
While the human rights situation in Azerbaijan is difficult, the inhabitants of the exclave Nakhchivan suffers under a local regime that appear to have been given free reigns to harass and intimidate the inhabitants into a situation that appears similar to the Soviet period. The report outlines how human rights defenders and journalists are almost disappeared from Nakhchivan and ordinary citizens who protest intimidation in legal means risk being forced into psychiatric institutions. A small riot in the village of Bananyar led to mass arrest and new commitment to psychiatric institutions around new year. Outsiders have been refused access to the village to investigate the events.
In addition to the report on Nakhchivan, the delegation will also share a common statement on human rights in Azerbaijan, urging the international community to action concerning this country. The statement is supported by a number of Azerbaijani and international NGOs, including Media Rights Institute, Institute for Reporters´ Freedom and Safety, International Federation for Human Rights, Institute for Peace and Democracy and Democracy and NGO Development Resource Center, Nakhchivan.