CoE Commissioner for Human Rights: “Azerbaijan will go down in history as the country that carried out an unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders during its chairmanship”
Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has written on Facebook about “one of the most difficult missions” of his “two-and-a-half year tenure as Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights” — a visit he paid to Azerbaijan to see the imprisoned human rights defenders.
“In late October I was in Azerbaijan, the oil-rich country in the South Caucasus, which just finished holding the rotating chairmanship of the 47-member Council of Europe. Azerbaijan will go down in history as the country that carried out an unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders during its chairmanship,” says he as quoted by the Turan news agency.
“All of my partners in Azerbaijan are in jail,” says Nils Muižnieks. “It was heart-wrenching to visit Leyla Yunus in pre-trial detention outside of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. Head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, Leyla is Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights activist and one of three finalists for this year’s prestigious Sakharov award, granted by the European Parliament. I do not know whether it was due to her cataracts or her emotional distress, but she cried throughout our half-hour meeting. The 58-year old also has diabetes, Hepatitis C, and kidney problems.”
On October 24, the day he left Azerbaijan, a Baku court prolonged Leyla’s pre-trial detention for another four months.
“Another difficult meeting was with Intigam Aliyev, one of Azerbaijan’s most renowned human rights lawyers, who is also in pre-trial detention for allegedly violating the restrictive provisions which make human rights work virtually impossible in the country. Again, the day I left Azerbaijan, his pre-trial detention was prolonged for another three months. When the judge announced his decision, Intigam nearly fainted,” says the Commissioner.
He further describes his meetings with Anar Mammadli and Rasul Jafarov.
“While most of my partners are in detention, others discontinued their human rights work, left the country over the summer, or went into hiding as the crackdown spread. I visited one of the activists in hiding, Emin Huseynov, head of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. Though Emin is only 35 years old, he has very high blood pressure and an old spinal injury caused by an encounter with Azerbaijani police batons at an “unauthorised” demonstration a few years ago. Doctors who have examined him say he will not survive an Azerbaijani prison,” writes Mr. Muižnieks.