Azerbaijan: Freedom to Rasul Jafarov!
2 August 2014 Rasul Jafarov was detained pending trial for three months. The human rights defender is charged with three articles of the Criminal code of Azerbaijan: tax evasion (art. 192), illegal entrepreneurship (art. 213) and abuse of office (art. 308). Before the arrest Rasul Jafarov was banned from leaving the country; the Public Prosecutor’s office limited his access to his bank accounts and cards. Besides, Rasul was interrogated as a witness on a case against several local and international NGOs; his flat was searched and documents related to activities of his organization were confiscated.
Rasul Jafarov is a well-known Azerbaijani human rights activist, who pays a lot of attention to international advocacy and informing of the international community about human rights situation in his country. He is one of initiators and coordinators of Sing for Democracy and Art for Democracy campaigns; he was also campaigning for release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan and has been actively involved in the work of the Civic Solidarity Platform. During the PACE session in June 2014 Rasul Jafarov and other human rights defenders reported about the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. During the 23rd annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Baku a month ago Jafarov and his colleagues organized hearings on the issue of political prisoners. Soon after those events the PACE appointed a special rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Jafarov’s arrest is a part of a dedicated campaign aimed at suspension of activities of unregistered NGOs in Azerbaijan. Registration of NGOs has increasingly met with refusal by the authorities and registered NGOs are subject to many restrictions, which is why Azerbaijan counts a large number of unregistered NGOs. Just three days before Jafarov’s arrest, on 30 July 2014, the same measure of restraint, three months of arrest, was applied to another human rights defender from Azerbaijan – Leyla Yunus. Before, on 26 May 2014, Anar Mamedli, the head of the Centre for Election Monitoring and Democracy Training (CEMDT), was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison, and Bashir Suleimanly, the executive director of the same organization, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. They were found guilty of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office. About 20 other civil society organisations in Azerbaijan are threatened with the same fate at the moment.
Measures taken by the authorities of the country, including pre-trial detentions and sentencing of human rights defenders to jail, are disproportional and inadequate, they contradict international norms.
Further deterioration of the situation with fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as repressions against the civil society is incompatible with Azerbaijan’s international commitments, especially in light of its current presidency in the Council of Europe.
The Civic Solidarity Platform expresses its concern about Rasul Jafarov’s arrest. We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to change his measure of restraint to one, which is not connected with detention, until a fair verdict is produced on his case. We also call on the authorities of the country to stop pressuring the civil society of Azerbaijan. We urge international organisations and governments to call on Azerbaijan to stop the unprecedented campaign of persecution of civic activists.
Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)
Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
Kharkiv regional foundation Public Alternative (Ukraine)
Citizen Army Law human rights group (Russia)
Centre for National and International Studies (Azerbaijan)
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations (Georgia)
No Borders Project – Social Action Center (Ukraine)
Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Freedom Files (Russia)
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
Association UMDPL (Ukraine)
International Partnership for Human Rights
Index on Censorship (Great Britain)