Psychiatric detention for criticizing the president
Arbitrary detentions of government critics are commonplace in Azerbaijan. Numerous activists, opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders have been prosecuted for merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and detained and imprisoned under politically motivated charges.
Recently, the Azerbaijani authorities have used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to lock up a growing number of their critics. On 19 March, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev announced “new rules” for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, and promised to “clean up” Azerbaijan’s political opposition, which he called traitors and “the fifth column”. (https://en.president.az/articles/36212). Arrests of high-profile political activists and human rights defenders under spurious charges have followed the President’s pronouncement, including the arrest of opposition activist Tofig Yagublu on charges of hooliganism (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/EUR55/2029/2020/en/) and human rights defender Elchin Mammad on charges of theft (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur55/2069/2020/en/).
More than a dozen individuals, comprising of political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and others who dared to criticize the authorities’ handling of the pandemic have been detained and remanded in so-called administrative detention for periods ranging from 10 to 30 days on bogus charges, including disobeying police orders or breaking the rules of lockdown. (https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR5524122020ENGLISH.pdf).
As the arrests and politically motivated prosecution of critics continue, Azerbaijan remains closed to scrutiny from independent human rights monitors, including Amnesty International, who have been denied access to the country for several years.