Human rights defender's office demolished in Baku
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.
Secretary General Bjørn Engesland has protested to the President of Azerbaijan in a letter.
All inventory, equipment, documents were destroyed or taken away by officials. IPD staff present were not allowed to bring anything with them. The demolition was overseen by officials from both the State Property Committee and the Baku Mayor’s office.
Although there has been a longstanding conflict over the possibily of a expropriation of this property, the manner in which this has happened gives reason to believe it is linked to Yunus' human rights activity. In early July this year a Baku Administrative Economic Court ruled that destruction of the bulding is inadmissable without a court decision. The ruling was made known to all relevant authorities. Leyla Yunus has over the years persistently exposed corruption and abuse carried out or protected by the authorities. The demolition of the property belonging to the Yunuses may have been a punishment for her long-standing work, possibly triggered by a recent series of articles published in international media. Leyla Yunus has exposed and challenged in courts the arbitrary house evictions and demolition of homes and buildings taking place in Baku, the last two years through support from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Read more here (in Norwegian).
Images from the demolition may be found on Radio Azadliq.