Freedom House calls EU to suspend visa facilitation for Azeri officials

Restrictions on free expression and assembly and reports of ballot stuffing and vote fraud have undermined the credibility of Azerbaijan’s presidential elections. Freedom House calls on the European Union to prioritize human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan at the Eastern Partnership Summit that will take place in November 2013 in Vilnius, and suspend negotiations on visa facilitation for Azerbaijani government officials, reads Freedom House press release.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the election as “seriously flawed.”  The government crackdowns on independent media, civil society organizations, political activists and supporters of the opposition candidates eliminated any possibility that the election would be free or fair.  Opposition candidates were largely denied access to mass media during a campaign that lasted only 21 days, and freedom of assembly was severely hindered in the lead-up to the elections, while the incumbent President, Ilham Aliyev, extensively used state resources, which secured him nearly 85 percent of the votes. Concerns about the level of fraud intensified on the eve of the elections, when information available through a mobile application run by the Central Election Commission “leaked” the outcome of the next day’s voting to social networks, in which Aliyev was assured of a landslide victory.
“The government of Azerbaijan has shown blatant disregard for its international obligations in the conduct of this election,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “President Aliyev’s ‘victory’ is badly tainted and lacks legitimacy, raising questions about how, even whether, he should be received at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius at the end of next month”. -02D-

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