In a joint statement issued today, with ILGA Europe, Civil Rights Defenders and RFSL, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee call upon Azerbaijani authorities to ensure the safety for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender characteristic.
Since 30 May 2021, there have been credible reports of a series of attacks against LGBTI+ persons in Baku, Azerbaijan. The attacks include physical violence, threats, and harassment with explicit homophobic and transphobic intent, including hateful comments made online. According to local human rights defenders, ten hate-related incidents have been reported to the police.
– Azerbaijan should take immediate action to address homophobic and transphobic violence, in order to prevent an escalation of violence and hate crimes, says Mina Skouen, Senior Adviser for Equal Rights and non-discrimination in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
– We also call on the Azerbaijani authorities to take necessary precautions to ensure safety for the LGBTI+ community in general.
The human rights situation for LGBTI+ persons in Azerbaijan has been of serious concern for years. Every year there are reports of attacks, arbitrary arrests, and intimidation of human rights defenders. In 2017 and 2019, there were well-documented reports of arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of LGBTI+ persons by the police.
In the ILGA-Europe 2021 Rainbow Map, the annual benchmarking on the legal and policy protection of LGBTI+ persons in Europe, ILGA-Europe ranked Azerbaijan at the bottom of the list of the 49 countries. ILGA-Europe Annual Review reports on Azerbaijan point to a high level of homophobic and transphobic speech and hate crimes, as well as lack of response by authorities in addressing such incidents.
The reports of attacks against LGBTI+ persons in late May and early June this year were carried out by private persons and occurred in public and private places.
Although the recent incidents have been reported to the police, no investigation has been started. The lawyer on these cases, Zhala Bayramova, reports that one victim has not been able to obtain the summon for a forensic medical examination from the prosecutor. In another case, the victim says she was refused medical assistance by two hospitals. In a third case, the victim has reported retaliation after her attempt to file a police report.
As a party to the European Convention of Human Rights – Azerbaijan is obligated to ensure the right to life and safety for all citizens (Article 2), respect for private and family life (Article 8) as well as equal treatment and non-discrimination (article 14).
In the statement issued today, the undersigned organizations confirm intentions to monitor the follow-up of the cases, and the overall situation for LGBTI+ persons in Azerbaijan.
Photo credits: Minority Azerbaijan
Mina Wikshåland Skouen