Tuesday 20.2.2018 in Latest Developments in Azerbaijan Country Page
Azerbaijan’s unlucky lawyers | openDemocracy https://t.co/KSrVGqmptc— Fair Trials (@fairtrials) January 4, 2018
According to Amnesty International, the Code of Civil and Administrative Procedure was amended in late 2017, a move which made it more difficult for lawyers to access the courts if they are not members of the Bar Association of Azerbaijan. Civil society and watchdog groups are concerned the changes could violate human rights defenders and dissidents' right to a fair trail. It could also be used to marginalise lawyers who defend and represent activists and opposition voices in the court of law. Commenting on the changes, Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, declared:
"In a country where innocent criticism of the authorities, even on social media, is already a fast track to prison any chance of a fair trial is now more elusive than ever”.
In defence of LGBTQI rights
The Law Society of Azerbaijan informed the CIVICUS Monitor about its ongoing concerns over the situation for sexual minorities and for the few human rights defenders in the country who focus on the rights of LGBTQI persons. In September 2017, the authorities arbitrarily arrested approximately 60 persons from the LGBTQI community on reportedly dubious and vague charges. Due to fear of reprisals, the Law Society of Azerbaijan reported that few civic groups felt able to express their concerns over the authorities' actions against the community. The Law Society has called on the government to ensure that the environment for all groups working in defence of LGBTQI rights is protected.
In December 2017, Aziz Orujov, journalist and director of the online "Channel 13", was sentenced to six years in prison. According to Turan News Agency, Orujov's lawyer referred to the verdict as "absurd", declaring it to have no legal basis. The charges against the journalist include "illegal business and misappropriation". Channel 13 produces news from many political viewpoints and opinions.
On 15th December 2017, anti-corruption blogger and journalist Mehman Huseynov's two-year sentence was upheld. He faced charges of "slander" in a trial that took place behind closed doors. The journalist plans to appeal the verdict.
In another case of violations of free expression, on 12th January journalist Afqan Mukhtarli was sentenced to six years on charges of "smuggling" among others. Human rights defenders and groups have condemned the charges and court sentence, alleging that the case is an another attempt by the government to suppress dissent and punish those who criticise those in power.
On 11th December 2017, another political protest was held at the U.S. Embassy in Baku. The protest was called to demonstrate opposition to the U.S. presidential administration's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. According to Jam-News, the protest was organised by the Women’s Council of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan and the Public Association of Soldiers’ Mothers. Approximately 20 women gathered to protest and according to the media, there were no reports of police preventing or disrupting the protest.