Center for National and International Studies
“Azerbaijan continues to be listed among countries where internet heavily freedom is restricted…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev was once again brought before the court, where a decision was made to prolong his detention by an additional 3 months. Lawyer Agil Lajic argued that this extension was, in fact, unlawful in accordance with the existing legal framework. He explained, “According to the Procedural Code, the preliminary investigation of a severe crime cannot exceed 13 months. I am left wondering whether the Prosecutor General is unaware of this legal requirement when extending Bakhtiyar Hajiyev‘s investigation period to 16 months. Or are the courts simply disregarding this provision and extending the pretrial detention without adherence to the law? It seems that codes and laws have been disregarded, leaving only one prevailing law in the country: executive orders.”
Afgan Mukhtarli, the exiled journalist, shared his thoughts on the extension of Hajiyev‘s detention, expressing that military triumphs are further entrenching Aliyev as a more authoritarian ruler. The journalist argued that military achievements are being wielded to suppress the people. Mukhtarli’s Facebook post: Military victories turn Aliyev into a more vicious dictator. Military successes achieved at the cost of the blood of the poor children of the people are used to crush the people.” Mukhtarli called for the release of political prisoners and demanded their freedom.
According to Azadliq newspaper, Arzu Hasanov, the representative of the Lankaran Shovu Village Administrative Area, and Rashad Alakbarov, who have been involved in an illegal extraction in the region, causing ecological damage in Lankaran’s Tangivan village for a decade, assaulted a local resident, subjecting him to severe physical abuse. Their altercation arose when they attempted to dig a new hole in the village, and the resident, Azer Safarov, intervened to prevent it. In response, the executive representative resorted to using force against Safarov, resulting in the latter losing consciousness due to the severity of the beating. Upon discovering Azer Safarov in this incapacitated state, fellow villagers attempted to assist him in regaining consciousness, but their efforts proved futile. An emergency medical service was subsequently summoned to the scene. Safarov was promptly transported to Lankaran Central Hospital, where medical professionals provided treatment. Although he has recovered to some extent, his condition remains serious.
Freedom House, a human rights organization, has reported that global Internet freedom has been on a deteriorating trend for the past 13 years, with frequent attacks on freedom of expression becoming increasingly common. In its annual report, released on October 4, assessing Internet freedom worldwide, the organization highlights that the most severe violations have occurred in Iran and Myanmar (Burma), where individuals convicted of online expression-related offenses faced death sentences. The report underscores that individuals in Belarus and Nicaragua have been subjected to severe prison sentences for their online testimonies, and leaders such as Alexander Lukashenko and Daniel Ortega have employed this tactic as a primary means to maintain their grip on power. The “Internet Freedom 2023” report covers 70 countries across six regions, categorizing internet freedom into three groups: “free,” “partially free,” and “not free.” Leading countries in terms of internet freedom include Iceland, Estonia, and Canada, Germany, the United States. Azerbaijan continues to be listed among countries where internet freedom is restricted. These limitations encompass the blocking of social media platforms and websites featuring political, social, and religious content, as well as the manipulation of online discussions by pro-government commentators. According to Freedom House, a smear campaign that featured nonconsensual intimate imagery of Azerbaijani pro-democracy activists and opposition figures spread across Telegram, TikTok, Facebook, and pro-government news sites. Azerbaijan’s neighbors Armenia and Georgia, however ranked among the countries with internet freedom.
The Situation in Karabakh
Following the commencement of a local military operation in Karabakh on September 19, “Aztelecom,” “Nar Mobile,” “Bakcell,” and “Azercell” suspended internet services in Fuzuli. Although the operations concluded, internet access has yet to be reinstated. Residents in Fuzuli district have reported that attempts to address this issue with relevant authorities have gone unheeded. They have been submitting requests for several days to resolve this problem. The situation with the internet increased the feeling of agitation and anxiety among the locals. The disruption of internet services and the infringement on their access to information were not communicated to the public. Individuals who rely on the internet for their businesses are facing significant challenges and have reached out to authorities in Baku for assistance. Additionally, students who engage in online tutoring have had to suspend their studies.
Arayik Arutyunyan, the former leader of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, who was apprehended in Khankendi and transported to Baku on October 3, has been formally brought to face legal proceedings as a defendant. The charges against him have also been made public. A joint statement was issued by the General Prosecutor’s Office and the State Security Service on October 5. Arutyunyan has been charged under several articles of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code, including Article 100 (planning, preparing, initiating, or engaging in aggressive warfare), Article 116 (violating international humanitarian law norms during an armed conflict), Article 120 (intentional murder), Article 214 (terrorism), Article 214-1 (financing of terrorism), Article 214-3 (training for terrorist purposes), Article 218 (establishing a criminal association), and Article 279 (establishing armed groups not sanctioned by law). He is accused of activities such as planting mines in Azerbaijani territories, launching ballistic missiles at Ganja and Barda in 2020, resulting in the deaths of civilians, organizing terrorist attacks, and numerous other crimes.
On October 1, a United Nations mission conducted a visit to Karabakh. The organization released information indicating that the mission was led by Vladanka Andreeva, the resident coordinator of the UN in Azerbaijan. During their visit, mission members, who had traveled from Aghdam, were present in Khankendi. Here, they engaged in discussions with the local residents and others, while also familiarizing themselves with the conditions in healthcare and educational institutions. The mission reported that there were very few local residents remaining in the city of Khankendi. Concerning the number of Armenians still residing in Karabakh, varying estimates were provided, ranging from 50 to 1000 individuals. The statement emphasizes that the mission was deeply affected by the abrupt displacement of local people from their homes and the resulting hardships it can bring. It is further highlighted in the statement that the mission did not receive any complaints from the local population or other individuals regarding acts of violence against civilians following the most recent ceasefire.
President Ilham Aliyev has declined participation in the upcoming summit of the European Union, set to take place in Granada on October 5. As part of the summit’s agenda, a meeting between President Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had been scheduled. An alternative proposal was put forth to hold a meeting involving Aliyev and Pashinyan in a different format. However, the Azerbaijani side deemed this format unacceptable due to France’s unwarranted accusations against Baku and its statements concerning the supply of arms to Armenia. Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s suggestion to involve the Turkish president in the negotiations was not accepted. Consequently, Azerbaijan has stated that it will reject any negotiation format involving Armenia if France is a participant.
According to Turan news agency, a local Armenian has been designated as the commandant of Khankendi by the Azerbaijani authorities. Turan reports that Sargis Galstyan has assumed the role of Khankendi’s commandant under the administration of the President of Azerbaijan. The sources also indicate that Galstyan previously held the position of deputy chief of staff within the “Ministry of Education” of the self-declared separatist regime and had served as an official in the occupation department of the Shusha district at some point in the past.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has put forth several amendments to the “Law on Military Service.” These proposed modifications encompass raising the military service retirement age from 48 to 53 years and extending the length of service from 20 to 25 years. It is reported that the Ministry of Finance is in favor of these amendments.
October 6, 2023