Center for National and International Studies
“With the new rules of residency, the population will be easily controlled, and legal grounds are created to track citizens…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Tofig Yagublu is on the 15th day of hunger strike. According to his daughter Nigar Hezi, who could finally meet him in the detention center, Yagublu’s health is in very bad shape. Hezi said that, although her father has already lost fourteen kgs, he is determined to continue his protest till the end, even if it will cost his life. Nigar Hezi said that she is also worried about her mother, Maya Yagublu, who is also on hunger strike. Hezi’s Facebook post: “Those who took part in the slandering and arrest of Tofig Yagublu, the judge who issued an illegal court decision against him and those who implemented it, each of you are responsible for the lives of Tofig Yagublu and my mother. You forced them to go on a hunger strike in protest against injustice and illegal acts. If anything happens to them, you will all be held accountable for it. I demand freedom for Tofig Yagublu!”
The lawyer of the activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who has been on hunger strike for more than ten days, said that Hajiyev is experiencing life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding.
Chairperson of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli, in his Facebook post, called on the public to be active in supporting the political prisoners and to protest against their illegal arrests. “In the state built by the Aliyevs, citizens are treated according to mafia rules. It is as if the mafia has invaded our country. Only in a country where the law is trampled and the judicial power is destroyed can a citizen be treated so barbarically. As a rule, we are talking about pressures and illegal arrests against social and political activists. Because socio-political activists fearlessly publicize the illegalities committed against them. I am firmly convinced that the people who suffer the most and systematic violence in this country are ordinary citizens who do not get involved in politics or even take pride in not getting involved in politics. Therefore, our compatriots should not deceive themselves. “Staying out of politics” cannot protect you from being punished by such a mafia, from being harassed by state authorities, or from illegal arrests. There is only one way to protect ourselves, our families, our relatives, and our future. We must gather, organize, fight and build a state that serves the people.”
Azadliq newspaper reports that a precautionary measure was taken against journalist Jamil Mammadli. On January 18, journalist Jamil Mammadli was released from the police station after criminal charges were brought against him. During the investigation, he was placed under police custody. Mammadli said that he was involved as an accused person under Article 221.2.2 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism, when it is committed by resisting a representative of the authorities or another person performing the task of protecting public order or preventing the violation of public order). Mammadli denied the accusation. According to him, on December 15, 2022, he had a car accident, and as a result, there was a fight with the driver of the other car who caused the accident. According to Mammadli, he was repeatedly called to the police and twice to the Main Organized Crime Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Article 221.2.2 includes correctional works for up to two years, restriction of freedom for up to three years, or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
A teenage TikTok user who allegedly insulted police was summoned to the police department, where his hair was shaved, and his photos were shared on social media. According to Rufat Safarov, co-founder of “Defence Line” Organization, in order to humiliate the young man, ‘the police officers first tied up his hair with a bow and took a photo, and then shaved his head bald, took his pictures again and spread it online.” Elshad Hajiyev, head of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, commented on the issue, denying the accusations and arguing that “it was staged because someone wanted to collect tokens on TikTok.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov said that “these images alone, the law enforcement agency tying a bow on the young man’s head, then shaving his head bald, and spreading it on social networks show that Azerbaijan is an unsuitable place for civilized people to live.”
Journalist Mehman Huseynov condemned the act calling it inhuman. “If that young man violated any law, he had to answer before the law, before the court. What the police did was hooliganism. This would not happen in a country where there is rule of law. Law must work, not street rules. I’m calling on the police if you like to punish someone, deputy prime minister Yagub Eyyubov stole 1 billion dollars from the budget. If you can, try to arrest him or summon him to the police department.”
A group of visually impaired persons protested, demanding transparent elections for the chair of the Visually Impaired Society. According to the members of the Society, they were not allowed to attend the Society’s congress on December 29, and they were subjected to police violence. The members are dissatisfied with the management in the Society, and the activities of the chairperson Samiyar Abdullayev, and demand a new, transparent election. They complained about the lack of jobs and problems related to social inclusion.
Jafar Mirzayev, a member of the APFP who was arrested shortly after being deported from Germany, was sentenced to six years in prison. The decision was made at the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. Jafar Mirzayev was arrested on false drug charges. When he was living in Germany as a refugee, Mirzayev took an active part in rallies against the Azerbaijani government and supported the rights of political prisoners. Previously, former political immigrants who were arrested upon deportation Punhan Karimli, Muttalim Oruj, and Malik Rzayev were sentenced to six and seven years of imprisonment. The trials of activists Samir Ashurov and Rashad Ramazanov, who were arrested after returning from Georgia, continue. Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that the regime aims to intimidate the public with these arrests, and the German government is also responsible for it. “Ilham (Aliyev) takes revenge. He mercilessly punishes anyone who criticizes or opposes him. He also does this to scare others. He doesn’t just punish. They also disparage anyone that they cannot buy with the hands of those they bought. The “rights defenders”, “opposition leaders,” and “independent journalists” he bought, inform international organizations that the arrested immigrants are not political prisoners. They discredit those who defend these people. I have said it a thousand times before. I repeat again that the German government, the European Union, the United Nations, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are responsible for these arrests. Germany deports those whose lives are in danger. But it patronizes people with the status of “political refugees” who frequently visit Azerbaijan and whose concerts are organized in Baku. Anyone who can easily visit Baku should immediately lose their status as a political refugee. Please tag the German embassy in the comments, I can not do it as I am blocked.”
Governance and Corruption
According to the latest corruption scandal, Deputy Prime Minister Yagub Eyyubov has embezzled approximately one billion dollars and managed to deposit in his son’s name in a bank in Riga, Latvia. According to the local media, Eyyubov’s account was frozen. Yagub Eyyubov, as the first deputy prime minister, is an important figure in the government who oversees the activities of the Armed Forces and takes part in military exercises, as well as a number of inspections. In 2015, president Ilham Aliyev awarded Eyyubov with the Order of Honor for his “effective” activity. In the same year, Belarusian President Lukashenko awarded Eyyubov with the Order of Honor for his significant contribution to the development and strengthening of trade and economic relations between Belarus and Azerbaijan. In 2016, he was awarded the Order of Friendship of Russia by Vladimir Putin. Both countries were Azerbaijan’s main partners in the arms trade. Recently, several high-ranking officers of the Finance Department of the Ministry of Defense were arrested in connection with the embezzlement of large amounts of funds.
The State Statistics Committee made changes to the decree on the registration and the instruction on keeping records of the residents in the cities and administrative territories. According to the new changes, in case of staying in another place other than their original residence for more than sixty days, citizens should inform the authorities and must register in their new address of residence. Those who violate this rule will be fined 30 manats. Chairperson of NCDF Jamil Hasanli commented on the latest changes saying that it is completely unconstitutional and violates the fundamental rights of the citizens. “Undoubtedly, the recent changes made by the State Statistics Committee are unconstitutional. It restricts the free movement of citizens within the country. In my opinion, the same restrictions imposed on foreigners are imposed on citizens of Azerbaijan by this law. Why is the government doing this? Of course, first of all, by these new rules, the population will be easily controlled, and their whereabouts will be accessible. Legal grounds are created to track citizens. After these changes, the police can stop and interrogate any citizen at any time and demand documents. On the other hand, by imposing another fine on the citizens (those who violate this rule are fined 30 manats) government aims to collect additional funds to the budget (at the expense of citizens). This fine is 30 manats today but could be 50 manats tomorrow and 130 manats the next day. In recent years, some fines have been increased 200-250 times. Apart from adding additional funds to the budget, this change leads to massive bribery. It will provide additional opportunities for bribery for police agencies. Will registration be free? Probably not. So, the citizen will also have to pay for the registration. In addition, if a citizen stays for more than 60 days, where should he register within seven days? This is also a question. Where will this registration take place: at the Migration Service or at the MIA bodies? Do you need the consent of the place of registration for this? For example, the person must take the ownership document to the registration office and agree that I agree to this person’s temporary registration in my apartment, etc. Of course, one goal here is to prevent the flow of people from the regions to Baku. However, it should be at the expense of the socio-economic development of these regions. In the last 15 years, about 70 billion dollars have been spent under the name of the socio-economic development of the regions, but there is nothing in sight. The people in the regions cannot find work, and they have to come to Baku in search of 5-10 manats. It is an administrative way to stop the flow by imposing a fine. It is an official admission that the government has failed to develop the regions and has ultimately chosen a punitive way to prevent the flow of people to the capital. And also, these new changes are also in conflict with the international conventions to which Azerbaijan has joined – first of all, with the European Charter of Human Rights.”
January 20, 2023