Strasbourg, 27 May 2013 – “Journalists, bloggers, activists and other independent thinkers continue to experience severe limitations to their freedom of expression in Azerbaijan” said today Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, at the end of a three-day visit to the country. Referring in particular to the detention of a number of these persons, the Commissioner expressed his view that “clearly, they should not be in prison”. In the course of his visit, the Commissioner travelled to Ismayilli, where he discussed the protests which took place there last January. He also went to Kurdakhani Detention Centre, where he met with Ilgar Mammadov, Hilal Mammadov and Zaur Gurbanli.
“Releasing all persons who are in detention because of the views they hold and express should be a priority for the Azerbaijani authorities in order to protect freedom of expression” said the Commissioner, noting that this should be accompanied by measures to enhance the independent and impartial review of the relevant cases by the judiciary. In parallel, the authorities should bring the long-standing work on the reform of defamation legislation to a successful conclusion, by ensuring that it provides for defamation to be dealt with through proportionate fines and not imprisonment. The Commissioner welcomed that the authorities are currently engaged with the Council of Europe Venice Commission on this reform, which is also required in order to execute two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights against Azerbaijan. However, he found it “difficult to reconcile” this commitment with the amendments adopted by the Azerbaijani Parliament only two weeks ago, aimed at facilitating the application of defamation provisions to online expression. The Commissioner called on the President of Azerbaijan not to sign these amendments into law. (more...)
- Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe