UN urges Azerbaijan to improve human rights, independence of judiciary

By bne IntelliNews November 7, 2016

The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) released a report highlighting 14 areas related to human rights in which Azerbaijan falls short.

Of particular concern are constitutional and judiciary checks and balance to ensure the protection of human rights in the country, UNHRC highlighted. Specifically, the committee asked Baku to provide evidence for the independence of the ombudsmen, and pointed out reports of arbitrary and politically motivated arrests of civil activists, human rights defenders, opposition politicians, lawyers and journalists.

“In view of persistent reports of lawyers representing victims of torture, human rights defenders or any other cases that are reported to be politically motivated, being disbarred or threatened with disbarment or being subjected to criminal proceedings, please provide detailed information on the introduction of any safeguards to prevent such occurrences, ensure the full independence of lawyers and protect them from retaliation,” the UN agency urged.

Other areas of concern are torture and abuse of prisoners, gender inequality, violence against women, the rights of minorities and refugees and internally displaced persons and rights to participate in public life.

Azerbaijan risks losing its membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a 51-member-country organisation that carries some sway with international lenders over its poor human rights track record. If that happens, Baku may be unable to raise financing from multilateral banks for an important gas exploration and transport project, for which the country is still short of $8bn.

After EITI released a review in October advising the country to ensure civil liberties, Baku continued to intimidate human rights lawyers and to sentence dissenters to lengthy sentences over trumped-up charges. For instance, in early November, a Baku court sentenced a youth activist to a ten-year jail sentence for alleged drug trafficking. The youth was arrested in May, after spray-painting graffiti over a monument dedicated to Heydar Aliyev, the country's late president and the current president's father. 

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