33 international NGOs called on Macron to achieve release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

Baku / 12.07.17 / Turan: We are writing to you on behalf of the undersigned organizations to draw your attention to the repressive free speech situation in Azerbaijan and to request your support to ensure the release of those imprisoned on politically motivated grounds in this country. In particular, we urge you to use your administration"s influence and leverage to help ensure the implementation of the ruling issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the case of political opposition activist Ilgar Mammadov. He remains in prison, although the Court concluded that he was detained in retaliation for his criticism of the government. The persistent non-execution of the ruling in his case by the Azerbaijani authorities is undermining the credibility of the human rights protection regime established by the Council of Europe and sets a dangerous precedent for all those wrongfully prosecuted in Azerbaijan who turn to the Court in search of justice.

In the last few years, Azerbaijan"s government has carried out a relentless crackdown on alternative voices in the country. Legislation seriously restricting the operation of NGOs has been enforced, independent media subjected to pressure, the political opposition has been marginalized and human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition activists have been arrested, convicted and imprisoned on politically motivated charges.

While some of those imprisoned on such grounds have been released as a result of international pressure, new arrests continue to take place. For example, well-known blogger Mehman Huseynov was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison on defamation charges in March this year after speaking out about police ill-treatment. Journalist Aziz Orujov and opposition member Gozel Bayramli were arrested on other spurious charges in May, while in the same month journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Georgia only to resurface in Azerbaijani custody. Many government critics imprisoned in previous years also remain behind bars, including Ilgar Mammadov.

We urge you to do all in your power to help prevent this dangerous outcome and to ensure the implementation of the ECtHR judgment in the case of Ilgar Mammadov, as well as the release of him and others arbitrarily detained on politically motivated grounds in Azerbaijan. To this end, we urge you in particular to:

Support the civil society appeal to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to refer the case of Ilgar Mammadov back to the ECtHR on the grounds of non-execution of the judgment under article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which sets out a mechanism in cases where parties to the convention refuse to abide by a final judgment.

Issue a public statement on the importance of the execution of ECtHR judgments in view of the integrity and credibility of the human rights protection regime established by the Council of Europe, giving particular attention to the failure by the Azerbaijani authorities to date to implement the ruling on the case of Ilgar Mammadov and the wider implications of this.

Prominently raise the case of Ilgar Mammadov and others who have been deprived of their liberty in retaliation for their exercise of fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan, including Mehman Huseynov, Aziz Orujov, Gozel Bayramli and Afgan Mukhtarli in relations with the Azerbaijani authorities and use all available means of leverage to press for their release.

Invite representatives of Azerbaijani civil society to a meeting to demonstrate support with them and to discuss the challenges they face and ways in which your administration can help address these challenges and promote improved respect for the standards protecting fundamental freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

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