Barroso meets with a large group of Azerbaijani human rights defenders

During his visit to Baku, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on June 14 met in the office of the EU with a large group of the representatives  of civil society in Azerbaijan.

According to  the  meeting member , the Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) Leyla Yunus, she informed Barroso about  strengthening  repression against opponents of the government recently in Azerbaijan, and that in this connection, the  Repression  Resistance Center  (RRC) under the IPD was created. She passed  Barroso the first appeal  of the  CSR.

"The events in Ukraine, which riveted the attention of the USA and the EU,  has given the authoritarian regime  by Aliyev an  opportunity to start the complete destruction of remaining independent media, NGOs, civil society activists in Azerbaijan," reads the appeal.  The appeal also reads that there are 130 victims of political repression in Azerbaijan,  40 of them "prisoners of conscience" and 90 political prisoners.

In particular, among the "prisoners of conscience"  there are 11 journalists and bloggers, four  human rights defenders,  11 young activists, the vast majority were educated in the USA and the EU,  two  leaders of  pro-Western opposition, and  12 believers.

 The RRS demands: the immediate release of all the victims of political repression  of the authoritarian regime by Aliyev, criminal responsibility of all employees  of the Prosecutor's Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of National Security,  who participated in the torture and fabrication of criminal cases, as well as the expulsion of the judiciary judges who  passed  politically motivated sentences.

Another participant in the meeting, the director of the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) Emin Huseynov noted that he raised issues of restricting fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, press, assembly and association.

Particular attention was paid to the problem of political prisoners. "We believe that at least 30 political prisoners should be released immediately. We monitored the trials in their cases and political motives of their persecution have no doubt. There are about 70 people,  whose  trials  we did not monitor, and therefore we  cannot unequivocally say that they are political prisoners. But we do not deny that they could be  pursued for  political motives. Therefore, we propose to hold repeated objective and transparent trials in their cases," Huseynov said, explaining his point of view on the issue of political prisoners.

He said that Barroso’s  attention was also focused on a pressure on the institutions of civil society, the problem of refusal of registration of NGOs, grant agreements of  registered NGOs, unreasonable administrative inspections of NGOs, etc.

According to Huseynov,  he informed  Barroso of the above problems  in a special message to him on the eve of his visit.

 The IRFS Director   asked Barroso  to call on  President Aliyev: to release  all journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition activists convicted of freedom of expression and stop the practice of prosecuting citizens for political reasons; take measures to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression; investigate acts of violence against journalists; adopt a law on defamation, cancel regressive amendments to the legislation in the field of freedom of expression and activities of NGOs; ensure freedom of assembly, and end the high fines for uncoordinated actions; start a dialogue with civil society.

 Emin Huseynov said that Barroso  listened attentively, and said that the EU's relations with Azerbaijan are not limited to the energy sector, and the EU  structures will closely monitor the situation of democracy and human rights.

He promised to raise issues of concern from civil society activists  at another meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, to be held on Saturday evening.

 By common agreement the meeting participants were able to report to the media only about their  participation. -06B –


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