Fight for Freedom of Assembly in Azerbaijan

azerbaijan baku

Target: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev

Goal: Ensure right to freedom of assembly and protest in Azerbaijan

A recent peaceful demonstration in the streets of the Azerbaijani capital of Baku was crushed by police forces. Amidst the cries of “Free elections!” and “Resign, phony parliament!” activists found themselves forcibly grabbed, restrained, and stuffed in police vehicles by uniformed and plainclothes police officers alike.

Decrying the demonstration as unsanctioned, officers were quick and ruthless in dispersing the crowd and silencing voices of opposition. Yet, such voices are necessary for democratic systems to develop and thrive. Call upon Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to reevaluate his government’s position on protests and protect freedom of assembly.

The demonstration was organized by over 200 youth activists associated with political parties opposing the current administration. Responding to a video depicting a member of parliament with strong ties to the presidential administration soliciting a bribe, the protesters called for parliament’s dismissal and new elections.

But Baku authorities refused to grant protest organizers permission to hold the demonstration, instead offering an alternative area well into the city’s outskirts. As a result, police officers were justified, in a sense, in arresting and detaining many activists, charging them with fines, warnings, and misdemeanor offenses.

This does not change the fact that the Azerbaijani government has essentially nullified its people’s right to freedom of assembly. Peaceful protests have in essence been banned from Baku’s center, having been instead relegated to these hard-to-reach areas outside the city. Refusing to sanction protests enables the government to pick and choose which voices will be heard.

Those voices that find themselves unsanctioned are dealt with in the same way as these most recent protesters. And yet, as a member of the European Convention on Human Rights and other treaties, Azerbaijan is called upon by international law to ensure the right to assembly and protect protesters.

Remind President Ilham Aliyev of his government’s duties to its people and to the international community. Freedom of assembly must be honored in Azerbaijan.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Ilham Aliyev,

Recently, a peaceful demonstration in Baku calling for the dismissal of parliament was dispersed and many protesters were arrested and charged. Police dismissed the protest as unsanctioned, which is true. Yet, when attempting to get permission for the demonstration, protesters were denied and instead told they could hold their demonstration on the city’s outskirts in a location difficult to reach by public transportation.

This incident follows on the heels of many just like it. Your government has seen it fit to, in essence, deny your citizens their right to freedom of assembly by refusing to sanction peaceful protests or relegating such demonstrations to hard-to-reach locations where they will be entirely ineffectual.

The above mentioned protest was in response to a leaked video that incriminated members of parliament in bribe solicitation. Azerbaijani citizens have the right to speak their mind and demand a response from their government. In fact, Azerbaijan has signed several human rights treaties that ensure this very freedom.

I ask that you follow the international standards you have agreed to and allow your people the freedom to assemble peacefully as they see fit.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: indigoprime via Flickr

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