Center for National and International Studies



“The international community, particularly the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE, should advocate for human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan in every high-level discussion with Azerbaijani authorities…”


(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Imran Aliyev, the director of the “Meclis.info” website, was apprehended at Heydar Aliyev International Airport on the evening of April 18th. Aliyev himself provided this information. He stated that he was detained while awaiting a flight and was handed over to individuals wearing black masks. Shortly before his arrest, the government-affiliated “Qafqazinfo” website published an article titled “New Facts in the Case of ‘Abzas Media‘ and ‘Toplum TV‘,” in which Imran Aliyev’s name was mentioned. Imran Aliyev’s meclis.info website monitors the Parliament’s activities and disseminates information to the public. He has been arrested on charges of smuggling and reportedly subjected to torture, including electric shocks, and coerced into signing statements against his will.

Activists Elgiz Gahraman and Murad Rustambayli have been prevented from leaving the country, a fact confirmed by the activists themselves. They stated that the Ministry of Internal Affairs imposed this restriction on them, although they did not specify the exact reason for it.

The European Parliament will address the case of detained economist Gubad Ibadoghlu in an urgent session. This issue has been added to the agenda of the upcoming European Parliament session scheduled for next week. The agenda item focuses on providing an appropriate response to the significant decline in Ibadoghlu’s health and advocating for his release from detention. The resolution is titled “Repressions against civil society in Azerbaijan; the case of economist Gubad Ibadoghlu and Ilhamiz Guliyev.” Alongside Professor Ibadoghlu and Ilhamiz Guliyev, the resolution also addresses the unlawful detention of the employees of “AbzasMedia” and “Toplum TV.”

Following the European Parliament’s announcement on Monday, Gubad Ibadoghlu, the chairman of the Azerbaijan Democratic and Prosperity Party (ADR), has been placed under house arrest instead of detention. He will remain under house arrest for the duration of the investigation period. This information was provided by his lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov. The hearing took place today, April 22, at the Narimanov District Court. The lawyer emphasized that the court agreed to the house arrest based on the defense’s arguments. Bayramov stated to Azadliq Radiosu that the defense highlighted Ibadoghlu‘s health condition during the hearing. The lawyers argue that the accusations against him are unfounded, and his health condition does not justify his detention. In his first interview after his release, Ibadoghlu stated that his arrest was unjust and politically motivated. Additionally, he expressed his commitment to working towards the release of all political prisoners.

The hunger strike of activist and a member of the APFP Elnur Huseynov, held at the Baku Investigative Detention Facility, has taken a turn for the worse. He has begun to experience health issues, despite starting his dry hunger strike on April 18. Even though he has been suffering from severe stomach pains, he has not been moved to a medical facility for treatment. Recently Huseynov underwent treatment at the New Clinic for an unspecified stomach condition, with doctors stressing the need for urgent medical attention. Party chairman Ali Karimli highlighted that the treatment towards Huseynov, who is the brother of a martyr, reflects the regime’s attitude towards not just the APFP but also the martyr families. Despite his family’s objection, Huseynov has initiated a dry hunger strike to protest against the injustices inflicted upon him. We are deeply concerned about his well-being and call for his freedom, along with that of all other unlawfully detained political prisoners, stated Karimli.

According to Azadliq newspaper, there has been a complete absence of information regarding the whereabouts of activist Elshan Karimov for the past two days. Karimov was detained upon his return from Moscow to attend his father’s funeral, and there have been no updates on his situation since then.

The National Council of Democratic Forces has issued a statement against the abolition of the freedom of assembly in Azerbaijan. The statement says: For more than 5 years, the Azerbaijani government has effectively abolished the freedom of assembly for citizens in the country. The opposition was last granted permission for a rally in January 2019. Since then, all rally applications from the National Council and APFP have been rejected on various pretexts, and the unauthorized actions we conducted were forcibly dispersed by harsh police crackdowns. In each such attempt, hundreds of participants have been detained and subjected to torture. Nevertheless, the National Council remains steadfast in its desire to ensure the right to rally for citizens.

Taking into account that parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in the country this year, the National Council has decided to attempt rallies again. Unfortunately, the government does not seem to have any intention to lift the ban on rallies. This year, the National Council has already applied to the Baku City Executive Power to hold a rally on April 21 but received a refusal. Accordingly, the National Council has rescheduled the rally for May 5.

The National Council urges the government to uphold the rights and freedoms outlined in the country’s Constitution, including the rights to assembly and demonstration, cease repression, release political detainees, and facilitate suitable conditions for rallies and demonstrations both in Baku and across the country. It strongly denounces the government’s denial of the planned April 21 rally as a violation of the Constitution and demands approval for the May 5 rally. The National Council urges the international community, particularly the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE, to advocate for human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan in every high-level discussion with Azerbaijani authorities, including topics such as the release of political prisoners and freedom of assembly, to ensure conditions for free and competitive elections, and to support the freedom of the press and civil society particularly on the eve of the forthcoming COP 29 event to be held in Baku.

Economist Rovshan Aghayev highlighted the increasing difficulty faced by independent journalists amid current repressive conditions in the country. Aghayev emphasized, “It will be exceedingly challenging for individuals with innovative and non-conformist perspectives, particularly those within the realms of independent civil society and media, to survive under current circumstances. This challenge arises not only because recent arrests have left virtually no room for such activities but also because discussions on topics vital for the country’s progress hold little interest for the majority of society. The government has effectively monopolized societal discourse around a singular narrative, achieving complete control. If this trend persists, it may trigger a fresh wave of emigration among the dwindling few with creative and independent thought. Personally, I never entertained this notion until I reached the age of 50, despite the presence of genuine opportunities. However, now they have pushed this country to the edge.”

In recent times, Azerbaijan has witnessed a surge in the crackdown on independent media. Journalists who defy government directives face arrest, media outlets are shuttered, and their operations curtailed. Presently, 24 media personnel languish in Azerbaijani prisons, with most facing accusations of “currency smuggling”. The government leverages its own media channels to vilify these independent outlets, orchestrating smear campaigns against their detained counterparts. Those arrested are charged with disseminating “unethical content” in purported investigations, displaying “anti-nationalist tendencies”, endorsing “Armenian network revanchist activities”, and even perpetrating “local sabotage”, all without substantiation or evidence. Among the primary conduits for such narratives are APA Information Agency and other government-affiliated media entities.

Azerbaijani journalist in exile, Afgan Mukhtarli, announced plans for a group of Azerbaijani political refugees residing in Europe to organize a rally during President Aliyev‘s visit to Berlin. Mukhtarli stated that Aliyev is scheduled for an official visit to Berlin on April 25 and 26, where he will attend a conference hosted by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz on April 26. In light of these events, migrants in Germany have resolved to stage a protest. “Together, let’s welcome Ilham Aliyev with chants of “Aliyev dictator!”, “Free political prisoners!”, and “End repression!”, said Mukhtarli. This rally aims to denounce the unprecedented repression in Azerbaijan and protest against Ilham Aliyev‘s unchecked authority and endorsement of coercive measures. “We extend an invitation to political migrants from Europe to join us in front of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Berlin. We call upon all who refuse to turn a blind eye to their homeland, their people, and their fellow activists to participate in our demonstration, scheduled for April 25 and 26, from 9:00 to 17:00.”

April 23, 2024