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Infringement of the rights of activists in Azerbaijan

On 11 August 2011 a group of construction workers started to demolish a building at Shamsi Badalbeyli street in Baku which housed three Azerbaijan NGOs. The offices of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, the Women’s Crisis Center and Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines were knocked down. Two employees who were in the building at that time, were not allowed to take equipment and documents from the offices.

Within half an hour, the private property of Leila and Arif Junu, leaders of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, together with all the computers, documents and office equipment left in the building, were completely destroyed. Also the library and personal archive of Ms Junus were demolished. The demolition was carried out despite the ruling of the Administration and Commercial Court in Baku of 24 May 2011, in which the Court found that it was unacceptable to tear down the building without a final court decision.

This incident is another example of repression against human rights activists in Azerbaijan. In March 2011 country’s state authorities closed the Human Rights House, a part of the Human Rights House Network, a human rights organisation operating in more than 20 countries all over the world. The decision to close the House was based on the amendment of a 2009 law which required that international non-governmental organisations operating in Azerbaijan reached an understanding with the State.

The Human Rights House had not been notified of any irregularities or an obligation to modify the principles of its functioning. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, a long-term partner of NGOs in Azerbaijan, points out in the letter that it is necessary to reinforce the fundamental freedoms of association and assembly and strengthen the respect for private property. It also emphasises the need for the Polish authorities to intensify their actions to promote international standards of human rights. Azerbaijan, as a country included in the Eastern Partnership Programme, is under an obligation to respect the principles of democracy and introduce appropriate safeguards for human rights.

The letter was drafted as part of the Europe of Human Rights programme.

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