Center for National and International Studies
“EU should stand to its values and demand the immediate release of the political prisoner #freeSalehRustamov…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
“The Azerbaijani authorities are continuing their crackdown on political opposition, and heavy-handed approach in response to peaceful protests, in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Amnesty International in a statement reacting to the recent police brutality during the rallies in Baku. Several people, including opposition leader Tofig Yagublu was detained and severely beaten during a rally demanding the release of political prisoner Saleh Rustamli. “The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, effectively investigate all cases of unnecessary or excessive use of force by the police in the street, and allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and bring those suspected to be responsible to justice” concluded the statement by the Amnesty International.
A number of protesters were detained and later fined during the rally on Sunday. The Azerbaijani government has long used the pandemic against its opponents. Head of APFP Ali Karimli said that at least 43 participants were detained during the rally, and although no administrative arrests have been made so far, the detainees were fined heavily.
The protests demanding the immediate release of Saleh Rustamli continue outside Baku. Bloggers Mahammad Mirzali, Elshad Mammadov, and Tural Hasanzadeh held a protest rally in front of the hotel where Ilham Aliyev stayed in Brussel. Tensions arose between Ilham Aliyev’s bodyguards and protesters. According to the Azadlig newspaper, security guards threatened to kill the bloggers, but the police intervened and set up a barrier between the parties. Bloggers chanted slogans like “Dictators have no place in Europe!”, “Freedom for political prisoners!”.
In an interview with Turan, one of the co-rapporteurs, Austrian MP Stefan Schennach, said in response to a question about how he assessed the recent developments in Azerbaijan that “Mr Rustamov`s case is one of many examples of the lack of independence of the justice illustrated by a long-standing pattern of repression of the government’s critics which is a major concern in Azerbaijan.” The rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) are expected to visit Baku in January. Isabel Santos, a member of the European Parliament, also reacted to Rustamli’s case on Twitter: On the eve of the #EaPSummit, with Azerbaijani president visiting Brussels, the EU should stand to its values and demand the immediate release of the political prisoner #freeSalehRustamov. On #hungerstrike for 39 days, started a dry hunger strike and could die at any moment.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a mass hunger strike began to demand Rustamli’s release. Rustamli’s brother Taleh Rustamov, sister Yegana Rustamova, cousin Firangiz Mammadhuseynova and nephew Saygin Rustam announced that they had started a dry hunger strike. In addition, a member of the Presidium of the Popular Front Party, Mammad Ibrahim, party functionaries Jeyhun Novruzov, Seymur Ahmadzade, public activists Ilkin Rustamzade and Elman Guliyev began a hunger strike. Opposition leader Tofig Yagublu said that there are many who want to join the hunger strike, and if the government does not correct its mistake, it could cover the whole country. “The government should know for sure that our people will not remain silent about the murder of a heroic son Saleh Rustamli in prison and will not forgive anyone for this crime… government must release Saleh Bey immediately without risking his life, as well as a serious political crisis in the country,” said Yagublu.
Governance, corruption, transparency
Journalist Mehman Huseynov shared his latest investigation exposing illegal businesses owned by the first Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations, lieutenant-general Rafail Mirzayev. Huseynov wrote: Innocent people are being killed in prison, but those who plunder the state budget enjoy freedom. Please meet the corrupt lieutenant-general Rafail Mirzayev. This is probably the first time you have heard the name of this general. Employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations are fed up with this man. Don’t be fooled by his rank of general, this man runs the “DRAGON” Doner house in Baku. The deputy minister and his son spat on the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Together with his children, he has stolen millions from the state budget. How? Come and check out this research. We do what the Prosecutor General’s Office does not. ATL TECH, owned by the Deputy Minister’s son, operates at the expense of dirty money. Those who commit crimes at the state level go unpunished, but an innocent man, the former head of the Gadabay region Saleh Rustamli, is forced to die in prison…”
Head of NCDF, Professor Jamil Hasanli, criticized Aliyev’s statement about the politicization of sports games. During a meeting with the members of the Karabakh club, president Aliyev said that “sport should be separated from politics.” Hasanli added that almost all of the 30 sports federations in Azerbaijan are headed by ministers, committee chairpersons, and some high-ranking officials. Asking whether it is not the politicization of sport, Hasanli concluded: Ministers and committee chairmen of a number of sports federations have formed paramilitary groups of former athletes and used them as mercenaries to disperse political rallies and beat protesters.”
Post War Situation. Problems of veterans and families of the martyrs
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss existing disagreements between the two countries. Although Aliyev described his talks with Pashinian as “productive and pragmatic,” the FB community reacted differently. Reflecting on the controversy around the corridors, activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev said that there should be no “either-or approach” to this issue. President Aliyev said in Brussels that the legal status of the Zangazur corridor should be the same as that of the Lachin corridor, meaning that there should be customs and border posts either in both or none of the corridors. However, according to Hajiyev, equating the two corridors is a wrong approach. Hajiyev wrote: The Zangazur corridor will connect the western regions of Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan, the territory of Azerbaijan. That is to say, conditions are created for the transition from one part of Azerbaijan to another. However, the Lachin corridor provides access from Armenia to the territories of Azerbaijan. Therefore, the lack of control by the border service and the Customs Committee in the Lachin corridor will overshadow the status of Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory. The agreement in the Lachin corridor without customs and border control means that “the territory is ours, but we do not control the people entering and leaving our territory, and we officially accept that we don’t have control over the territory.”
Economy and Social Issues
The chairman of the Democracy and Prosperities Party, Gubad Ibadoghlu, shared the recent GDP and demographic statistics pointing out the economic disparities. Ibadoghlu wrote: GDP is growing, yet the people are getting poorer. According to the State Statistics Committee, in January-November 2021, the country produced 5.3 percent more gross domestic product (GDP) than in the same period last year. In fact, it is a good indicator. However, when looking for an answer to the question of who benefits from this growth, it becomes clear that there is no direct link between the positive change of GDP and the living standards. On the contrary, when GDP fell by 4 percent last year, the living standards were much better. Although there was economic growth over the past year, real incomes have depreciated further due to rising prices, and actual expenditures have increased and continue to rise. This shows that the Committee does not accurately calculate the rate of either inflation, unemployment, poverty, or GDP, or none of these. Because there is no correlation between the statistics of unemployment and poverty and GDP. This also means that current indications of the Azerbaijani economy are self-contradictory.
December 17, 2021