The crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and civil society must stop

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (HRCA)

Azerbaijan

The crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and civil society must stop
Paris – Baku, March 18, 2011.  The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation in Azerbaijan the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (HRCA) express their deep concern regarding the arrestation of demonstrators and the recent crackdown on civil society.

The Azerbaijanese police rounded up dozens of people who participated in the rallies organised on March 11, the « Great People’s day », and March 12 by opposition parties, calling for freedom and the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev.

At least 30 people were detained for disobeying police orders, deferring police or participating in an unauthorised rally, and sentenced to imprisonment for five to eight days. «  Several activists and protest organisers were even arrested prior to the demonstrations. The crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and civil society at large is intolerable and FIDH will closely follow the situation. », said FIDH president, Souhayr Belhassen.

These events are occurring in a context of increased pressure on civil society. Over the past few weeks, several attempts have been made by the authorities to undermine the activities of civil society. On March 10, the Justice Ministry ordered the Azerbaijan Human Rights House organisation (HRH), an officially registered organisation, to immediately close down on charges of breaching the June 2009 amendments to the Law on Nongovernmental Organisations.(1)   Previously, HRH reported on the  police’s investigation into their activities.

The users of social networks were also targeted by the Azerbaijanese authorities who arrested at least five of them, prior to the demonstrations, for fabricated charges of hooliganism, disobedience to police orders, drug possession and draft evasion. Indeed, they had either used Facebook and other social media outlets to call the youth to protest on March, 11, or used social media to relay calls for mass demonstration organised by political parties on March, 12.

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