Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Azerbaijan

Defamation campaign against Mr. Eldar Zeynalov and Mrs. Leyla Yunus1

At the end of March 2005, Mrs. Leyla Yunus, a member of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, learned from anonymous sources that her name was included in a "black" list of the intelligence services and that she "should be careful".

At the same time, Mrs. Yunus and Mr. Eldar Zeynalov, head of the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan (HRCA), were victims of a defamation campaign in the pro-government television channels Lider TV, ATV and Space TV. In particular, a journalist for Lider TV accused Mrs. Yunus of working "against the State of Azerbaijan", and stated that "people [like her] should not be given any protection". Between June and August 2005, both were accused by several journalists of defending "terrorists". In addition, a group of law professors, close to the government, publicly accused Mr. Zeynalov and Mrs. Yunus of "nonprofessionalism" and of "[providing] misinformation to international organisations", in particular at a press conference on 17 October 2005.

Mrs. Yunus also received several death threats. Although she lodged a complaint against the security services, no inquiry had been opened yet by the end of 2005.

In 2004, Mr. Zeynalov and Mrs. Yunus had already been subjected to a defamation campaign in the pro-government media after they had presented a list of Azerbaijani political prisoners in May 2004 to representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). At that time, they had been accused of supporting terrorists and members of the "Chechen resistance movement" and of disseminating false information to European institutions.

Threats against Mrs. Arzu Abdullayeva and murder of Mr. Elmar Huseynov2

At the beginning of 2005, Mrs. Arzu Abdullayeva, president of the Azerbaijani Committee of the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly (HCA), and co-president of HCA International, was subjected to acts of harassment and intimidation. In particular, she noticed on a number of occasions that she was being followed by unknown individuals and received several anonymous death threats. On 9 April 2005, unknown persons came to the HCA office in Baku and at her home, demanding to speak to her, although a meeting had not been arranged.

These events followed the murder, on 2 March 2005, of Mr. Elmar Huseynov, founder and editor of the Monitor, a weekly newspaper that works closely with HCA. In January 2005, during the pre-electoral campaign, Mr. Huseynov had, notably, been critical of power abuses by several high-ranking officials, at the time when a law on the fight against corruption was coming into force, and when several representatives of the Ministry of Justice had been arrested and brought to court.

Ongoing harassment of Mr. Ilgar Ibragimoglu3

On 4 April 2005, Mr. Ilgar Ibragimoglu, coordinator of the Centre for the Protection of Conscience and Religious Freedoms (DEVAMM), and secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), was prevented from leaving Azerbaijan.

Mr. Ibragimoglu was to attend the 61st session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva (Switzerland), in order to present a report on criminal proceedings of religious nature in Azerbaijan. Yet, Mr. Ibragimoglu had given to the authorities prior notice of his official invitation to take part in the Commission. The representative of the customs department explained that they had received orders not to let him leave. This was the fifth time since August 2004 that Mr. Ibragimoglu was prevented from leaving the country.

On 20 December 2005, Mr. Ibragimoglu was again prevented from attending a conference in which he was to take part, this time in Moscow (Russian Federation). The customs officer told Mr. Ibragimoglu that he had been ordered by the Ministry of Justice not to allow him to leave.

1. See Annual Report 2004 and Open Letter to the Azerbaijani authorities, 29 April 2005.

2. See Open Letter to the Azerbaijani authorities, 29 April 2005.

3. See Annual Report 2004 and Urgent Appeal AZE 003/1203/OBS 068.2.


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