Center for National and International Studies
“Aliyev might have been averse to celebrating the Day of Restoration of State Independence because it serves as a reminder to Azerbaijani people that Aliyevs were not actively involved in the historic struggle for the nation’s independence…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms
Orkhan Bakhish, a young member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), was subjected to a 20-day administrative arrest on what the Party claims are baseless allegations. Orkhan Bakhish, a previous political detainee, becomes the fifth APFP advocate to face arrest in recent days. Party leader Ali Karimli expressed his disappointment, highlighting the ongoing hostility of the regime towards the people. He lamented the authorities’ treatment of the nation as if it were an occupied territory and called for the immediate release of Orkhan Bey and all other political prisoners.
The Baku Court of Appeals convened on October 16 to review a petition seeking the replacement of pre-trial detention with house arrest for Afieddin Mammadov, the chairman of the Confederation of Workers’ Table Trade Unions. On September 21, the Khatai District Court had imposed a 2-month pre-trial detention order on Afieddin Mammadov. The charges against the young activist included violations of Article 221.3 of the Criminal Code, related to hooliganism using a weapon or an object as a weapon. Afieddin Mammadov‘s attorney, Zibeyda Sadighova, informed Voice of America that the judge did not grant the appeal.
Gubad Ibadoglu, the jailed chairman of the Democracy and Prosperity Party, underwent CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) at the Central Clinical Hospital on October 13. However, no results of these examinations were provided. His brother, Galib Bayramov, relayed this information to Turan News Agency. Even though on October 11, the leadership of the Chief Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice had asserted that these examinations were unnecessary, Ibadoghlu’s current health situation necessitated an urgent examination. However, Ibadoglu was promptly returned to the Pre-trial Detention Center after the medical tests and neither he nor his family members have been given the results of the examination. Bayramov mentioned that Ibadoglu‘s health remains in a critical condition, with his blood sugar levels being 2-3 times higher than normal, necessitating insulin treatment. Medical professionals have noted that the elevated sugar levels have had adverse effects on the politician’s vision and kidneys. Surprisingly, no examinations addressing these issues have been conducted, as highlighted by Ibadoglu‘s brother.
The Baku Court of Appeal reviewed an appeal challenging the administrative arrest order issued by the Surakhani District Court against Kanal Zeynalov, who served as the bodyguard of the opposition leader Ali Karimli. Under the guidance of Judge Elbey Allahverdiyev, the appeal was ultimately denied, and the original decision was upheld. During the court proceedings, Kanan Zeynalov, who was present, contended that his arrest was connected to his political engagements. Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, the attorney representing him, indicated that they intend to appeal this decision to the European Court of Human Rights.
Human rights advocate Elchin Mahmud has expressed his dissatisfaction with the Ombudsman’s response to ongoing human rights violations. In a Facebook post, Mahmud stated that he had received a reply to his complaint addressed to the Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) in his capacity as a human rights defender. The complaint pertained to the unjustified detention, torture, and other unlawful actions against journalist Nurlan Kahramanli, as well as the pressure and threats faced by journalist Osman Rzayev’s wife, Arzu Rzayeva. The response received more than a month after the original request stipulated that a complaint could only be submitted with the consent of the individual whose rights had been violated and required a notarized power of attorney to be attached. Mahmud expressed his strong belief that there was little genuine interest in the issues he raised in his application. He opined that the response seemed more like a formality, an attempt to create an impression of activity, even if it was belated. He noted the stark contrast in the treatment of Armenian prisoners, who received special attention and care without the need for such documents. Mahmud also recounted his personal experience of being unjustly imprisoned for over three years, during which no representative from the Ombudsman’s Office had visited him.
Azadlig newspaper reports that Meheddin Orujov (also known as Mohyeddin Orujov) has been apprehended for expressing criticism of President Ilham Aliyev on social media platforms. At approximately 7 o’clock on Thursday, the police received a complaint against him, alleging that he had posted content against the state and the president on social networks. As a result, he has been detained at the 32nd police station of the RPI for the past five hours in Surakhani.
Governance and Corruption
On October 16, a congratulatory message was jointly sent to President Ilham Aliyev by 23 political parties. The party leaders’ message acknowledged the progress of pluralism and democracy in the country. However, a group of political figures and activists criticized these party leaders, citing concerns that fundamental freedoms were being violated in the country during the presidency of Aliyev. Notably, the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), Musavat, and Azerbaijan People’s Party (APP) refrained from endorsing the statement.
According to Ali Karimli, the head of the APFP, under Ilham Aliyev‘s 20-year rule, Azerbaijan has transformed from a semi-free nation to one that is no longer free. Additionally, it has descended to lower positions in the authoritarian regime rankings. He asserted, that “the regime in Azerbaijan is not merely categorized as authoritarian but rather as a classic authoritarian and kleptocratic regime.”
Karimli noted that all international organizations, including the European Parliament, and human rights defenders confirm that there are currently more than 200 political prisoners in Azerbaijan: “Just in the last few days, five members of the Popular Front Party were arrested and 8 of our functionaries are in jail. Freedom of speech and the press are completely restricted in the country. Some of the internet resources are not accessible in the country. Elections are falsified in order to eliminate the multi-party system, and there are no opportunities for the opposition to operate in the country. Parliamentarianism, local self-government, and judicial power have been destroyed, resulting in the formation of one-man rule. Under no circumstances can such a government be called democratic. Therefore, it is inappropriate and absurd to talk about some reforms, freedom of speech and press, and the development of democratic institutions.”
Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli argued that those who signed the congratulatory letter to Aliyev are NGO leaders who simply receive grants in exchange for praising the Aliyev regime. Mukhtarli: Some of the leaders of these fake parties, who vocally express their support for Ilham‘s domestic, foreign, economic, and correct policies, also happen to be heads of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These individuals, often characterized as fraudsters, have spent years persuading international organizations that the issue of political prisoners is being addressed and reforms are in progress in Azerbaijan. A number of them are presently based in Prague, where they secure grants and actively promote Ilham Aliyev‘s agenda.”
Director of Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov also commented on the joint statement of party leaders, saying that those who now praise Aliyev for his “successful domestic policy” have been in jail for years as a result of that exact policy. Goyushov’s post: “The congratulatory letter addressed to Aliyev contains the following statements: ‘the accomplishments you have achieved in the domestic and foreign policy of Azerbaijan, improving the welfare of our people, the development of our regions, the diversification of the economy have all been made achievable through your dedicated efforts.’ Among those who signed the appraisal letter are individuals like Ilgar Mammadov, Iqbal Aghazade, Faraj Guliyev, Ali Insanov, who have spent years in prison as well as Fazil, Sabir, Tahir, Mirmahmud, Sardar, and Trol, who have repeatedly faced police baton strikes. They have come to their senses, it seems. I just want to say that the fact that you spent years in prison and that the numerous instances of police baton use on you were all parts of what you describe as successful internal policy :).”
October 18 marks the day of the Restoration of Independence in Azerbaijan. On this day in 1991, the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan passed the Constitutional Act declaring Azerbaijan’s independence. The declaration received popular approval through a December 1991 referendum. Nevertheless, in contrast to past years, the commemoration of this date has been gradually diminishing, and it is now scarcely observed. Some opposition figures contend that this decline is attributed to the absence of the current president and his father from the movement that ultimately paved the way for the country’s independence in the early 1990s. Ali Karimli, the leader of the APFP, noted that despite the fact that the Aliyev family has been in power since independence, with only an exception of a couple of years, they choose not to commemorate that significant day. Karimli: “After all, the restoration of independence mostly benefited the Aliyev family. For 30 out of the 32 years since gaining independence, both father and son Aliyev have ruled Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, this government has consistently refrained from commemorating a significant occasion – the Day of Restoration of State Independence. This day ranks among the most significant holidays in Azerbaijan, second only to May 28th, Independence Day. In my perspective, the father and son Aliyev might have been averse to celebrating the Day of Restoration of State Independence because it serves as a reminder to Azerbaijani people that Aliyevs were not actively involved in the historic struggle for the nation’s independence. Moreover, this great movement was spearheaded by their political rival, the Ppupular Front, and its leader, Abulfaz Elchibey.”
October 20, 2023