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Azerbaijan: Government tightens grip on freedom of expression ahead of elections

    October 30, 2015

    Spokespeople available for interviews

    Azerbaijan’s dire human rights record is rapidly deteriorating as people prepare to head to the polls on Sunday 1 November amid a backdrop of crackdowns on freedom of expression and the right to assembly, said Amnesty International today.

    “Azerbaijani authorities must uphold their human rights obligations and immediately release all prisoners of conscience, as well as stop persecuting civil society activists, including human rights defenders,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia.

    At least 20 people are currently imprisoned in the country merely for having challenged the government’s policies or having attempted to help victims of human rights abuses. Most of the country’s independent human rights organizations – around 20 – have been shut down, with their most prominent leaders arrested or forced into exile.

    “Azerbaijan must also ensure that those responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice by investigating all cases of harassment and persecution of political and civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists. These include cases involving fabricated evidence to support trumped-up criminal charges against human rights defenders,” said Denis Krivosheev.

    The presidential election in 2013 was also preceded by arrests of political and civil society activists amid attempts to suppress political contenders to the government of President Ilham Aliyvev, who has been in office since succeeding his father in 2003.

    Azerbaijan has become out of reach to international human rights monitors and other observers as the crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and association intensifies. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been denied entry or had staff members deported in recent months.

    For more information on the current human rights situation in Azerbaijan, see:

    For more information, please contact: Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332