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Commendations And Concerns Regarding Azerbaijan

Riot police detain a protester during a rally in Baku, March 10, 2013.
Riot police detain a protester during a rally in Baku, March 10, 2013.

The United Nations Human Rights Council held a review and dialogue on Azerbaijan’s human rights performance.

On April 30, The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group, the UPR, held a review and dialogue on Azerbaijan’s human rights performance. Azerbaijan was one of fourteen countries examined during the session held in Geneva.

Commendations And Concerns Regarding Azerbaijan
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In remarks to the UPR, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, said, “We commend Azerbaijan’s positive steps, such as those to discourage violence against women and early marriage and the 2012 release of a number of individuals imprisoned for public expression of their opinions.”

However, Ambassador Donahoe said, “We are concerned by the continued incarceration of some journalists and democracy activists. These raise concerns about the authorities’ use of the judicial system to limit the rights of individuals to express themselves freely.”

Ms. Donahoe also voiced concern over “undue restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly” in Azerbaijan and over “recently enacted legal government restrictions on funding for civil society and continuing difficulties for NGO’s seeking to register,” as well as reports of harassment of human rights lawyers.

In its latest annual human rights report on Azerbaijan, the U.S. Department of State noted similar problems, including “restrictions on freedom of expression, including intimidation, arrest and use of force against journalists and human rights and democracy activists online and offline.”

Among other violations of freedom of expression, including imprisonment of journalists, the State Department report cited the case of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova who works at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In an incident in March 2012 that drew international and local condemnation, Ms. Ismayilova, who has exposed official corruption in Azerbaijan, was the victim of attempted blackmail, when a surreptitiously obtained video of her intimate life was posted on the internet. Although the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration criticized the invasion of her privacy, an official investigation has not led to any arrests.

In her recent remarks to the UPR in Geneva concerning Azerbaijan, Ambassador Donahoe cited three recommendations: that Azerbaijani authorities “release individuals incarcerated for publicly expressing their opinions and ensure due process for other detainees; permit peaceful protest to occur throughout the country, including in Baku city center, and fully investigate allegations of harassment of legal professionals representing peaceful demonstrators, and work with the legislature, as well as domestic and international organizations, to amend legislation in order to promote a flourishing civil society.”