Azerbaijan added to human rights watchlist as police detain hundreds of protesters following disputed parliamentary elections

29 June 2020

  • Escalating rights violations include the detention of opposition leaders and protesters decrying widespread election violations
  • At least 7 journalists arrested and beaten
  • The state of civic freedoms in Azerbaijan is rated as CLOSED by the CIVICUS Monitor

Azerbaijan has been added to a  watchlist of countries which have seen a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms in recent months. Excessive force used against protesters, arbitrary detentions and attacks on the press have solidified Azerbaijan as one of the most repressive countries in the world for civil society.

The new watchlist is released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks the latest developments affecting civic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

In February 2020, protesters disputed election results which international observers say were riddled with irregularities. On 11 February at a protest in Baku, Azerbaijani police detained at least 20 people, including several opposition candidates, while over 100 activists were arrested ahead of a protest on 16 February. Ensuing protests have been violently dispersed by police, leaving protesters and journalists injured.

In the weeks and months that followed, Azerbaijani authorities abused COVID-19 measures to systematically target opposition supporters and critics by punishing those who exercised their right to freedom of speech. In March, authorities arrested and detained Tofiq Yagublu, a top opposition figure on false hooliganism charges, while in mid-April 2020, it was reported that at least six activists and a pro-opposition journalist were sentenced to detention after criticising the government’s handling of the pandemic.

These arrests came just days and weeks after president Ilham Aliyev alluded to using the pandemic restrictions to crack down on the country’s political opposition in his address to the nation.

In the coming weeks and months, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in Azerbaijan and raise our concerns to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which will hold its 44th Session from 30 June to 17 July in Geneva, Switzerland.

Azerbaijan is currently rated CLOSED by the CIVICUS Monitor. There are a total of 24 countries in the world with this rating (see all). This rating is typically given to countries where state and powerful non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, seriously injure and kill people with impunity for attempting to exercise their rights to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves (see full description of ratings).

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