The dream of a Europe without political prisoners and the grim reality of Azerbaijan: Sakharov Freedom Award Seminar

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 is awarded to Political prisoners in Azerbaijan. 

The authorities in oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan by the Caspian Sea have for years brutally silenced their critics by accusing them of fictive crimes and then sentencing them to lengthy prison terms. More than 90 political prisoners have been identified in the country by local human rights activists, by applying the Council of Europe’s criteria. Among these prisoners, we find some of the most knowledgeable, experienced and vocal human rights defenders, journalists, youth activists and opposition politicians.

Civil society in Azerbaijan is being crushed and one of Norway’s partner countries is increasingly taking the appearance of a dictatorship.

We have invited a number of outstanding Azerbaijani experts, human rights defenders and family members of political prisoners to Oslo. On 12 November you are cordially invited to join us at our seminar discussing the grim facts of imprisonment on political grounds in Azerbaijan, our vision for a Europe without political prisoners and possible responses; what can and should intergovernmental organizations like the Council of Europe, states like Norway, businesses like Statoil, and human rights organizations do?


Welcome. Bjørn Engesland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

The end of shame? Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe and the capture of Europe. Gerald Knaus, Director of the European Stability Initiative, Germany. Author of ‘Caviar Diplomacy’, about the activities of the Council of Europe Parliamentary assembly (PACE).

The Ilham Aliyev regime and the powers that made it possible. Leyla Alieva, director of the National and International Studies Center, Georgia/Azerbaijan.
Soviet Union – Council of Europe – Soviet Union 2.0 – all in one life Emin Milli, editor Maydan TV (in exile) served a 2.5 years sentence for blog posts critical of the government of Azerbaijan.

Panel discussion: Why are we so inefficient in countering the wave of arrests in Azerbaijan and what can be done?
Speakers will be joined as panelists by
Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norwegian MP (SV) TBC
Steinar Gil, Former Norwegian Ambassador to Azerbaijan and
Vugar Gojayev, Expert
Berit Lindeman, Head of information, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, will chair the discussion.

Questions from the floor.

About the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award

The Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award was established in 1980 by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, with the consent and support of Andrei Sakharov, to assist and support people who were imprisoned or persecuted because of their opinions, beliefs or conscience. The first Sakharov Freedom Award was awarded in 1984.

Past recipients include the Russian election monitoring organization Golos, led by Lilia Shibanova in 2012, renowned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Kazakhstani human rights defender Evgeniy Zhovtis and Svetlana Gannushkina from Russia.

The Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 will be awarded at a ceremony at Hotel Bristol in Oslo on 13 November 2014.