Azerbaijan Continues Crack Down on Journalists, Human Rights Activists

Human rights abuses in Azerbaijan have garnered the attention of international NGOs concerned about the Azerbaijani government’s “relentless crackdown” on individuals with opinions contrary to those of alleged strongman and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Arif Yanus, a journalist and human rights advovate working for the Baku-based Institute for Peace and Democracy was recently arrested and charged with violating travel restrictions recently imposed on him, though the trip in question had been to visit his wife and leading Azerbaijani human rights advocate Leyla Yunus, who is currently serving a three month sentence for “spying and treason” on the government, a charge frequently used to describe vocal opposition to the government. Among other issues, both Ilham and Leyla Yunus had been known for their advocacy of greater freedom of expression and reconciliation between officials in Baku and those of Armenia, a bitter rival that has for years been at odds with Azerbaijan and continues to be a source of violence, mainly in areas of high Armenian population.

The history of human rights abuses in Azerbaijan is well documented, and the arrest and detention of the Yanuses is not an isolated incident. Amnesty International currently holds that at least 20 political prisoners are being held either on charges similar to those brought against Yanus, or without being charged at all. On August 3 the government ordered that another journalist, Euro Vision’s Rasul Jafarov, be detained for three months for allegedly trumped up charges of tax evasion and “illegal entrepreneurship,” both of which have been described as overly ambiguous and provided without context or additional detail. Issues of human rights abuse will likely continue to be documented, and the criticism of Aliyev, one of only two presidents to rule Azerbaijan since it left the Soviet Union in 1991, likely to become more acerbic as economic liberalization becomes greater and Baku enters into increasing contact with the West.

Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch

News Briefs: 

  • Hamid Karzai condemned a NATO/ISAF airstrike in Herat province that left, at last count, four civilians dead in Shindand. “Any military operations by the foreign forces, targeting civilians and residential areas in Afghanistan means that they do not value Afghans’ lives as well as it is a clear violation of bilateral agreements.” The ISAF issued its own statement saying it takes the allegations seriously and will release more details when appropriate.
  • Migrant flow from Central Asia to Russia has dropped 30% over the past 18 months, according to the chief of Russian Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky. This represents a victory for the efforts by Russian lawmakers to toughen punishments for violation of migration edicts.
  • Fugitive Kyrgyz ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiev has been awarded with the Belarusian Peoples’ Friendship Order. Kyrgyz officials summoned the Belarussian ambassador on August 5 to provide an explanation. Bakiev has been hiding in exile in Belarus since the April 2010 revolution when he was toppled by anti-government protests, after which he was sentenced to life in prison (in abstention) for his role in the deaths of 100 of those protestors.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s