Civil society protests against the reactionary amendments to legislation

Proposed amendments to the legislation on NGO activities are aimed at the final destruction of civil society and the complete suppression of human rights and freedoms. This was the leitmotif of today's emergency meeting of civil society at the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS).

The meeting was held as a result of parliamentary committee approval of draft amendments to tighten control over grants and donations from NGOs, religious structures and other organizations. Participants rejected arguments by supporters of the amendments that they would ensure the transparency of civil society.

"If we talk about transparency, it should be applied to all. So, if the Ministry of Justice does not respond to a request by a NGO, it must pay a fine from 90 to 180 manat; at the same time, if a NGO does not respond to a request by the Ministry of Justice, it is fined 18,000 manat. Even commercial organizations are not fined such amounts," said lawyer Alasgar Mammadli.

The lawyer Asabali Mustafayev said that the amendments are aimed at the destruction of NGOs. "The penalties for not registering grants mean that NGOs operating without state registration will be eliminated in the first phase. In the next phase, authorities will re-register NGOs and will not register unwanted NGOs.  It is necessary to prepare a parallel bill to impose a notification of registration of NGOs, as well as to achieve on-line registration of grants, as NGOs often sign electronic contracts with foreign donors and local notaries do not certify them," suggested Mustafayev.

Arastun Orujlu , the Director of the "East-West" Center, believes that it is not necessary to look for logic in the activity of authorities. 

"This is a reaction to the momentary situation, namely spontaneous popular uprisings in the region. It is no secret that intellectual capacity and the resistance of the repressive policy is focused on the institutions of civil society. Therefore, the authorities want to separate civil society activists from the regions," he said.

The head of the Society for Democratic Reforms, Oktay Gyulalyev said that the authorities have to carry out a total assault on human rights in the country.

"They do not want us to go to the regions and to meet people. I was warned that I would be arrested on charges of "inciting unrest", he said, and called upon international organizations not to close their eyes to the pressure on civil society. "It's time to decide who they are. Are they from a repressive regime, or civil society?" After blocking in the PACE report of Strasser on political prisoners in Azerbaijan, there is a new wave of repression, and new political prisoners," said Gyulalyev.

The Director of IRFS, Emin Huseynov, believes that Azerbaijan follows the way of Russia and Belarus.

"Our government copies repressive Russian counterparts, where penalties for participation in uncoordinated rallies were toughened, and those who receive foreign aid are called foreign agents. The same happens in Azerbaijan."

The discussions resulted in the adoption of a decision to appeal to the parliament to withdraw the said reactionary amendment. If the appeal is heard, there will be an appeal to the president to veto the reactionary law. An appeal will be made to international organizations to influence the authorities to prevent the adoption of amendments aimed at stifling civil society.

Civil society reserves the right to start mass protests if the authorities do not pay heed to their demands.—06С-

 

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