Center for National and International Studies



“Opposition members were generally more likely than other citizens to experience official harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention. Members of opposition political parties continued to be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to administrative detention after making social media posts critical of the government or participating in peaceful rallies.”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

The head of the “Majlis.info” platform, Imran Aliyev, has once again been subjected to torture after revealing that he was given electric shocks while in detention. This was reported by Rufat Safarov, the executive director of the “Mudafie Khatti” (Defence Line) human rights organization. “We had provided information about journalist Imran Aliyev being subjected to torture and given electric shocks to his body. After this information was made public, Imran Aliyev was again subjected to torture at the Khatai District Police Department, where he was asked, ‘Why are you reporting to the media and your relatives?'”, wrote Safrov on his social media page. Moreover, on April 24, the Appeals Court did not address the complaint of Imran Aliyev, he remains in detention.

The employees of the Social Rights Center, Ayshen Muradova and Gadir Gadirli were summoned to the Baku City Police Department. It has been reported that Muradova was detained at the airport a few days ago when she attempted to travel to her family in Istanbul and was subsequently prohibited from leaving the country by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The name of the Social Rights Center and Ayshen Muradova were mentioned in an article titled “Children of Captain Grant”: How does the West finance the NGSs in Azerbaijan? published by the “Sputnik” news agency on April 21.

According to Ali Karimli, the chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), Party member and activist Elnur Hasan faces the risk of losing his life while in prison. Karimli stated, “Elnur’s brother was martyred during the Second Karabakh War while fighting for our homeland, and if action is not taken, Elnur himself will have sacrificed his life for democracy.” Hasan has been on a dry hunger strike in prison for six days, and his health has significantly deteriorated during this time. He is protesting against his illegal imprisonment for drug use and the severe torture he has endured while incarcerated. Karimli mentioned attending Hasan’s court hearing and urging him to end his hunger strike or at least drink water. However, Hasan refused, as he cannot accept spending years in prison simply for criticizing the traffic police. The prison administration has shown complete indifference to Hasan’s life. Karimli emphasized that “they are essentially pushing Hasan’s martyred brother, who has committed no crime, towards suicide, and if any tragedy occurs, Ilham Aliyev personally bears responsibility for Elnur Hasan’s life”. Karimli stressed that Aliyev cannot evade responsibility by using excuses such as “we were not informed” or “it’s the officials’ autonomy” after pushing a young, determined Azerbaijani, an APFP activist, and moreover, a martyr’s brother, to the brink of death.

Amnesty International, the international human rights organization, has published its annual report titled “The State of Human Rights in the World 2023”. The report addresses human rights concerns in 155 countries during 2023, examining problems at global and regional levels and forecasting outcomes for the future. The section concerning Azerbaijan highlights the complete displacement of the ethnic Armenian population from Karabakh, the intensification of government attacks on freedom of expression, the suppression of protests, pressure on independent media and organizations, and the imprisonment of journalists and activists. It emphasizes that government critics, journalists, media representatives, and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan face increasing coercion, harassment, and illegal detentions.

On April 22, the US State Department released its annual report on the state of human rights worldwide for the year 2023. In the section related to Azerbaijan, the report mentions the military operation conducted by Azerbaijan in Karabakh on September 19-20, resulting in the displacement of almost the entire Armenian population from the region, harsh treatment of prisoners, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, and the inability of people to change their governments through free and fair elections. The document emphasizes that the Azerbaijani government has not taken credible steps to punish officials responsible for human rights abuses. Furthermore, no reports have been provided regarding the investigation of events allegedly committed by the Azerbaijani army in 2020 and 2022.

The report notes that in Azerbaijan, unlawful detentions, violations of basic rights of prisoners, mistreatment of prisoners, corruption in law enforcement agencies, and impunity persist systematically and endemically. It is also noted that while Azerbaijan has an official pardon system, no one released from prison through this system last year. The Azerbaijani government has not yet responded to this report. However, as a rule, the authorities do not accept criticisms in human rights reports, labeling them as slander and bias. Officials claim that no one in the country is persecuted for political or professional activities, as well as for exercising their freedom and rights. They state that arrests and detentions occur due to specific violations of the law. Azerbaijan rejects allegations of political prisoners in the country.

It also mentions that there were reports of violence and harassment against LGBTQI+ individuals, especially transgender individuals. A local NGO noted that in many cases, authorities did not investigate or punish those responsible for attacks on LGBTQI+ persons. Moreover, Opposition members were generally more likely than other citizens to experience official harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention. Members of opposition political parties continued to be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to administrative detention after making social media posts critical of the government or participating in peaceful rallies. For example, between September 18 and October 13, three members of the opposition Democracy and Prosperity Party reportedly were sentenced to 30 days of administrative arrest.

The US Congress is preparing a draft law on sanctions against Azerbaijani officials. A group of American congressmen, led by Dina Titus, plans to introduce a draft law on sanctions against Azerbaijan this week. This draft law envisages sanctions against more than 40 Azerbaijani officials – military personnel, judges, prosecutors, and high-ranking officials – who play an active role in undermining the rule of law and violating human rights in the country. Among them are representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Baku Serious Crimes Court, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Service, the Penitentiary Service, the State Border Service, and representatives of the Presidential Administration.

Nuraddin Mammadli, the chairman of the supreme council of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), expressed frustration as once again, the party was denied a venue for its meeting. Mammadli stated, “I have finally received a response to my request to the Baku City Executive Authority regarding holding a session of the APFP Supreme Council. However, the response does not align with the status of the institution, the requirements of dignity, or even basic logic. It is baffling that an organization, which owns state-owned property in a city of three million inhabitants, is unable to secure a venue for a Party gathering of 100-150 people. Such behavior by a state entity is in direct violation of the law.” Mammadli further highlighted that according to the new Law on Political Parties, party activities should adhere to regulations, and it is stipulated in the APFP statute that Supreme Council sessions should occur no later than two months apart. He also mentioned appealing to the Ministry of Justice, responsible for law enforcement, but noted that this effort was fruitless due to the centralized power structure in the country. Mammadli criticized the hypocrisy of speaking about law and human rights in a country where laws are blatantly disregarded. He suggested that the ruling regime, which disregards the people, fears not only large-scale rallies but even small gatherings in a closed hall.

The Council of Europe expressed concern over the call by MP  Zahid Oruj, the head of the Human Rights Committee of the Azerbaijani Parliament. Oruj has controversially called to “neutralize” Azerbaijani journalists and bloggers in exile. The Council of Europe noted that the prominent committee leader of the Parliament claimed that journalists and bloggers in exile were engaged in “information terrorism” and spreading “slander” against President Ilham Aliyev, while alleging that legal proceedings were ineffective. Oruj labeled Azerbaijani journalists and bloggers writing about politics from abroad as “legitimate targets” and called for action against them. The names of exiled journalists Sevinj Osmangızı and Tural Sadıglı were specifically highlighted in the circulated information. The Council of Europe expressed concern over the failure to adhere to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and demanded an end to threats. Furthermore, it emphasized the necessity of taking measures to ensure that public servants and journalists are not targeted and that no physical violence is applied against them, either within the country or abroad.

April 26, 2024