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Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Human Rights in Azerbaijan

On 22 May 2012 the capitol of Azerbaijan, Baku, will host another edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. Poland won’t be represented at the upcoming competition as the Polish national broadcaster TVP has decided not to join the show this year.

The HFHR wants to highlight the fact that the Eurovision 2012 host country is the place where drastic violations of human rights occur on a regular basis.

Azerbaijan is one of the countries of the Eastern Partnership which have a real chance of political and economic integration with the European Union. Still, the cooperation between the EU and its partner countries should be based on the common European values, including the respect for human rights. On numerous occasions, the HFHR has been reiterating that the existence of substantial economic interests between the EU and Azerbaijan is the reason why human rights issues are seldom made part of the dialogue, also between Poland and Azerbaijan.

Therefore, the Foundation would like to point out to the most important cases of human rights violations in Azerbaijan.

Above all, it is worth reminding a decision of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice to remove the registered status of the Human Rights House, a member of the International Human Rights House Network, as a result of which the organisation had to cease all activities. The decision to close the House was based on the amendment of a 2009 law which prescribes that international non-governmental organisations operating in Azerbaijan may only carry out their activities upon obtaining authorisation from Azerbaijani state authorities.

Provisions governing the legal requirements that non-governmental organisations have to satisfy to operate in Azerbaijan has been subject to a review of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission. In its opinion, the Commission argues that the requirements set out for example in the 2000 law on non-governmental organisations (as amended in 2009) fail to meet the European standards. The registration procedure is excessively lengthy and overly complex. There is also a minimum capital requirement of EUR 9,000.

Also, Azerbaijan is the scene of massive violations of property rights, such as the illegal demolition of the offices of the Institute for Peace and Democracy and the Women’s Crisis Centre, which took place on 11 August 2011. The demolition was carried out despite the May 2011 ruling of the Administration and Commercial Court in Baku, in which the Court found that it was unacceptable to tear down a building without a final court decision.

Moreover, dozens of political prisoners are still detained in Azerbaijan. Despite the fact that the President of Azerbaijan signed the amnesty act, the issue of political prisoners is still unresolved.

The freedom of expression in Azerbaijan is continuously violated. The most egregious example of such violations was the imprisonment of the journalist Eynulla Fatullayev. Mr Fatullayev was incarcerated for publishing two articles in local press. The first publication, which appeared in April 2005, was an account of events in Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the occasion of the upcoming Eurovision song contest the HFHR wants to draw the attention of the public to the campaign Sing for Democracy. The campaign is held by Azerbaijani human rights organisations partnering with the Human Rights House Network and the Solidarity Platform. The authors of the campaign want to use Europe’s favourite TV competition as a forum for raising awareness of the human rights violations in Azerbaijan.

For more information on the project, please visit the website of the Europe of Human Rights.

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