Azerbaijan: Amnesty International Human Rights Concerns

In advance of the Azerbaijan-England World Cup football qualifier, Amnesty International today (11 October) issued the following briefing on its key human rights concerns in the country.

Election 2003:(won by Ilham Aliyev, as the sole candidate, with large majority)

  • Opposition supporters intimidated
  • Widespread reports of irregularities: ballot-box stuffing, multiple voting, observers barred, officials harassed/intimidated
  • Excessive force by police breaking up peaceful pre-election opposition rallies.

Post-election crackdown:

  • Violent clashes following the election
  • Newspapers closed
  • Protesters and journalists beaten up
  • Opposition supporters and leaders arrested (Many released Dec ’03 and March/May ’04 after pressure from international organisations, including Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)

Human Rights defenders Those standing up for human rights and for reconciliation with Armenia regarding the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh have been intimidated and attacked – the head of the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan was attacked by a mob burning effigies of him, following a campaign in pro-govt. Media to denounce him as an enemy of Azerbaijan. Police failed to protect him.

Arrest and trial of Opposition leaders

Seven leading members of political opposition parties were arrested and charged with masterminding the post-election violence

  • Amnesty concerns that they may have been held in inhumane conditions and that several may have been tortured in detention.
  • Reportedly they were forced, through torture, to confess to having organized or participated in the post-election violence and to denounce the opposition electoral bloc Our Azerbaijan and its presidential candidate

Should England play?

  • Responsibility for improving human rights rests with Azebaijani govt. – and they do need improvement. International community should continue to pressure Azerbaijan govt. to improve
  • What the game will do is shine a light on Azerbaijan – a country that few people in England know anything about. We hope that people will find out more about the country and about the human rights situation there – and may even help Amnesty campaign for improvements.

• Read the release (4th May 2004) 'Azerbaijan: Political Opposition Leaders Must Receive Fair Trial Following Reports Of Forced Confessions' Under Torture ...

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