Wednesday 29.11.2017 in Latest Developments
At the beginning of November 2017, Radio Free Europe reported that the authorities in Azerbaijan had dropped all charges against Turan News Agency and its director, Mehman Aliyev. This positive development, follows Aliyev's detention in August 2017 on accusations of of tax evasion and abuse of power, while the Turan's financial operations were suspended.
In October, several assemblies took place in Azerbaijan. A group of non-governmental organisations protested against a visit of four Turkish citizens to the Nagorno Karabakh region. This is considered an occupied territory and anyone wishing to visit the region has to obtain official approval from the Azerbaijani authorities. According to Azernews, the Turkish citizens visited the region in September 2017 without documents and permission from the Azerbaijani authorities. Therefore, they are now on the international wanted list by the executive authorities of Azerbaijan.
On 7th October, 2017, the opposition in Azerbaijan organised protests against the government for the first time since protests in September 2016. Radio Free Europe reported about a few hundred participants took to the streets. The rally was organised by the National Council of Democratic Forces, an umbrella group of Azerbaijani opposition forces, and took place at the Yasamal District Stadium.
A few weeks later, an anti-corruption protest took place on 28th October 2017. According to the media, this one was the largest with almost one thousand people rallying against corruption and poor governance. This protest was also organised by the National Council of Democratic Forces. The slogans used by protesters were: "No to Robbery," "End to corruption" and "Freedom for political prisoners!"
After the Arab Spring, the authorities began taking measures to restrict the right to freedom of assembly in Azerbaijan, regulating where and when protests can take place. Protests against constitutional amendments in September 2016 ended in violence. These recent protests in October 2017 were, however, tolerated without reported abuses by law enforcement officials.
New PACE resolution on the situation in Azerbaijan
On 11th September 2017 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a new resolution on the situation in Azerbaijan. The resolution expressed concern over the “…number of persons currently in detention, allegedly for having voiced criticism of the authorities” as well as persecution of the political opposition.
The delegation from Azerbaijan at PACE denounced the text of the resolution stating that: “If the Council of Europe wants to exclude Azerbaijan from its ranks, then our country must itself withdraw from this organization, without waiting for the decision of the Council of Europe”. Other members of the delegation at PACE accused the Council of Europe of a biased attitude towards Azerbaijan.
U.S. Congress resolution on situation in Azerbaijan
Another resolution on the situation in Azerbaijan (H.Res.537) was introduced on 26th September 2017 by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) and Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA-2). The resolution aims to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights in Azerbaijan. The resolution was welcomed by Freedom House and other human rights organisations.