Political opposition figures persecuted and detained

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for civil society to operate, as governments implement restrictions on fundamental freedoms, and Azerbaijan is no exception. Restrictions have limited freedoms already under threat in the country, including the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression.

Association

Activists and political opposition members continue to face persecution from the authorities. Over the last several months, the authorities have pressured or detained individuals representing the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) and Musavat Party. Several such incidents are detailed below:

  • A few days after an unauthorised protest in support of the military in Baku, several representatives of the PFPA were detained. According to the regional Turan news agency, their detention is believed to be connected to the 14 July protest, when about 50 protesters tried to break into the parliament. 
  • Regional outlet Caucasian Knot reported on the case of an opposition activist who was also arrested in connection to the 14 to 15 July demonstrations. Ismail Gasanov was detained on 19 July and declared a hunger strike on 16 August. 
  • Mehdi Ibrahimov, who is the son of a member of the opposition Popular Front Party was also detained for his alleged involvement in the above-mentioned demonstration. 
  • Member of the Musavat Party, Azad Gasanov, reported a travel ban and at the time of reporting, was not allowed to leave the country to travel to Lithuania, where he has family.  
Civil society unable to operate fully and reach beneficiaries

On 22 May, the Institute of Reporters' Freedom and Safety organised an online roundtable discussion on some of the most pressing challenges facing the sector during the pandemic. Presenters noted a decrease in funding, due to economic uncertainties, and the inability of NGOs to reach beneficiaries, given COVID-19 related restrictions on movement, etc.  

Peaceful Assembly

In July, Azerbaijan and Armenia began military operations against one another, which sparked an unauthorised demonstration in Baku in support of the country's military campaign. According to the Azerbaijani media, on 14 July, several thousand people gathered in downtown Baku in support of the army. Media reported that police drove demonstrators out of the square in front of the parliament. The demonstration reportedly grew to include anti-government protesters who allegedly clashed with law enforcement. Police used water cannons and tear gas on demonstrators and several protesters, as detailed in the section on Association, were detained.