Twenty years of independence, economic prosperity and relative stability in Azerbaijan have failed to significantly improve Azerbaijan’s human rights record and the fundamental freedoms of its citizens. In recent years, the government has consolidated its authoritarian rule and control of public life by adopting a wide range of laws and stepping up measures to harass and intimidate those, still a small minority, who dare to voice critical views. Peaceful protest has effectively been criminalized by banning demonstrations and imprisoning those who organize and take part in them.Journalists have been beaten, ill-treated and abducted, while the range of independent media outlets has been curbed through laws banning foreign broadcasters from national airwaves. New routes for exercising the right to freedom of expression, such as the internet and social media, have also come under siege. Bloggers and youth activists have been harassed and imprisoned on trumped-up charges. The government is currently considering ways to control and monitor internet use.
This report focuses on the recent wave of intimidation and arrests prior to, during and after the protests in Azerbaijan in the spring of 2011. The report documents and analyzes the cases of harassment, intimidation, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and prosecution in unfair trials, as well as the new wave of repression directed against NGOs and media during and after the protests.
The long-term interests – of the people of Azerbaijan and the international community – are not best served by turning a blind eye to human rights violations that are undermining Azerbaijan’s democratic development and long-term stability. The Azerbaijani government needs to allow space for peaceful protest, critical opinion and opposition. Amnesty International calls on the government of Azerbaijan to end the harassment and suppression of civil society and independent media. It must free all prisoners of conscience and fully respect its obligations with regard to the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly under international law.