Amnesty International Report 2010 - The State of the World's Human Rights

Head of state Ilham Aliyev
Head of government Artur Rasizade
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 8.8 million
Life expectancy 70 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 54/52 per 1,000
Adult literacy 99.5 per cent

Restrictions on freedomof expression were tightened. Legislation and practice on the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment fell short of international standards, including in the failure to investigate torture allegations. Independent journalists and civil society activists continued to face harassment and imprisonment on charges of hooliganism and libel. The authorities failed to conduct a thorough investigation into the death in custody of a human rights defender who was convicted after an unfair trial and denied necessary medical care.

Background

Some progress was made in talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno- Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that broke away following the 1990 war. On 2 November, following talks in Moscow, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a joint agreement aimed at resolving their dispute over Nagorno- Karabakh on the basis of international law. Some 600,000 people internally displaced by the conflict continued to have restricted access to their economic and social rights.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In November the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern at Azerbaijan’s failure to implement the Convention against Torture in legislation and practice, including by prosecuting those responsible for torture. The Committee was also concerned at the extradition of Chechens to the Russian Federation and of Kurds to Turkey, where they risked torture.

Freedom of expression

Street protests were effectively banned. Youth opposition activists who attempted to hold demonstrations in Baku in January were reportedly arrested by police.

In March, Parliament passed several amendments to the laws regulating the mass media. These allowed the closure of media outlets for the “abuse of freedom of speech and a journalist’s rights”, vaguely defined as distributing information that threatened the “integrity of the state” or violated public order.

The constitutional referendum in March resulted in further restrictive measures in the Constitution and legislation. These prohibited the photographing, filming or recording of people without their consent, even in the public domain, effectively preventing the reporting of events of public interest. Opposition supporters and groups attempting to campaign against the referendum were reportedly intimidated and harassed by the police.

Independent journalists and civil society activists continued to be charged and imprisoned with the criminal offences of defamation and hooliganism. The UN Human Rights Council, concluding a Universal Periodic Review of human rights in June, called on Azerbaijan to decriminalize defamation and reverse its ban on foreign radio broadcasters. The UN Human Rights Committee in August urged the government to end direct and indirect restrictions on freedom of expression.

In the autonomous republic of Naxçivan, an Azerbaijani exclave bordered by Iran and Armenia,the authorities continued to harass and obstruct the work of journalists

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders remained under pressure. New regulations for NGOs came into effect in September introducing unspecified financial reporting obligations and a requirement for foreign NGOs to obtain authorization from the Ministry of Justice in order to operate in Azerbaijan.

Amnesty International report

Azerbaijan: Independent journalists under siege (29 June 2008)

© Amnesty International