PACE Concerned with Crackdowns in Azerbaijan

B8bPa_WIMAAlVXJ Dianara Yunus, daughter of imprisoned Azerbaijani human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus and PACE President Anne Brasseur.

During the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) winter session, a side event was held on January 27 called, “Media freedom: extended crackdown on journalists in Azerbaijan.” During that event, PACE Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muizneiks expressed deep concern over the worsening condition of basic human rights in Azerbaijan.

The session was organized by the International Media Support (IMS) and Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), and sponsored by Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) and Jacob Lund (Denmark, SOC). Among those taking part in the event was Aidar Botagarov, adviser to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and Kenan Aliyev, Director of the Azerbaijani service RFE/RL, which was recently closed down in Baku.

Anne Brasseur, President of PACE tweeted on January 28 that she is seriously concerned about the status of human rights in Azerbaijan. She said that she has had a meeting with Dianara Yunus, the daughter of well known human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, who are both currently serving time in Azerbaijani prison on trumped up charges.

Leyla Yunus is the director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, which has focused its efforts on combating politically motivated prosecutions, corruption, violence against women, and unlawful house evictions. The organization has also been involved in cross-border initiatives with Armenia.

According to a statement by Human Rights Watch, “Azerbaijan has a long history of using bogus charges to imprison its critics, including on treason charges, Human Rights Watch said. In the past two years, Azerbaijani authorities have brought or threatened unfounded criminal charges against over 40 political activists, journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders, most of whom are behind bars.”

On December 26, 2014 Azerbaijani state prosecutors ransacked and shut down the Baku bureau of RFE/RL. Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative reporter and RFE/RL contributor is also behind bars in Baku on trumped up charges.