With the arrival of the European Union special representative for human rights in Azerbaijan, the country has a unique opportunity to adhere to the international commitments it has signed by releasing detained and imprisoned journalists and human rights defenders.
“We have seen a marked deterioration in the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in recent months. A host of prominent reporters and civil society activists, who play a vital role in holding government to account, have been arrested and their voices silenced. The EU can — and should — do much more to hold Azerbaijan to account,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg.
The special representative, Stavros Lambrinidis, is in the country at the invitation of the Azerbaijani government.
The visit comes as the pre-trial detention of Arif Yunus, a human rights defender, was extended an additional five months. Arrested just days after his wife, Leyla Yunus, on 5 August 2014, Arif Yunus is facing charges of state treason and fraud.
Index recommends that Lambrinidis seek a more balanced view of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan by securing meetings with both Arif and Leyla Yunus, human rights and democracy activist Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli, human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev and journalists Khadija Ismayilova and Seymur Hezi. Mammadli, Suleymanli and Hezi are currently serving prison terms, while the others are in pre-trial detention. Lambrinidis should also visit the the Swiss embassy, where journalist and human rights activist Emin Huseynov has been forced to take refuge from the ongoing crackdown on civil society.