Azerbaijan has recently expanded its legislative framework to address cybercrime concerns, establishing dedicated structures within state agencies to combat this evolving threat. This year saw the establishment of the Main Department for Combating Cybercrime within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), signaling the government's commitment to addressing cyber threats.
However, some observers are raising concerns that while the country focuses on combating cybercrime, the protection of human rights may be sidelined in the process.
Fazil Mustafa, a member of the Milli Majlis Committee on Human Rights, emphasized stressed the apolitical nature of the issue in an interview with Turan, stating that the state's actions are aimed at preventing cybercriminal activity that can affect citizens on a large scale. He noted that many individuals have had their internet resources and bank accounts tampered with, and the state's involvement is a proactive measure to safeguard against such threats.
Mustafa argued that the establishment of institutions and initiatives in this area demonstrates the government's responsiveness to numerous complaints from citizens. He added that it is crucial not to misdirect the issue and that individuals expressing concerns may themselves become victims of cybercrime. The state's efforts include statistical research to identify areas with significant problems and to implement preventive measures.
Bashir Suleymanli, the head of the Civil Rights Institute, also stressed in an interview with Radio Azadlig that changes in cybercrime legislation and the creation of institutions in this field are not inherently connected to human rights. He pointed out that cybercrime is a growing global problem, and many countries have established structures to combat it.
However, Suleymanli acknowledged that it is challenging to predict how these institutions may be used in the future. He noted that just as other institutions can be employed for different purposes based on political views, anti-cybercrime institutions could potentially be misused. Suleymanli highlighted existing human rights issues within the country, underscoring that these concerns raise questions about the potential misuse of newly created institutions.
The human rights activist pointed out that incidents of privacy invasion have occurred, including the distribution of voice recordings and interference with personal lives. Such incidents have taken place even before the establishment of these new institutions.
For example, social activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, currently in prison on charges such as disrespect for the court and illegal entrepreneurship, had photos and correspondence spread on social media. He claimed that these materials were acquired and edited through illegal means. However, it remains unclear whether any investigation has been conducted into these allegations.
The balance between addressing cybercrime threats and safeguarding human rights will likely continue to be a matter of concern and debate in Azerbaijan as the nation seeks to address this evolving challenge.