AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SLAMS AZERBAIJAN AHEAD OF EUROVISION
- Amnesty International has published a report on Azerbaijan, slamming the country for its poor human rights record ahead of the Eurovision 2012 song contest. "Last May, Azerbaijan secured the right to host this year's Eurovision song contest thanks to its winning entry "Running Scared". Only a few months earlier, this is, quite literally, what hundreds of peaceful protesters were doing in downtown Baku, as police violently sought to silence them.
This May Azerbaijan will don its Sunday best as it welcomes thousands of Eurovision visitors and basks in the international attention it will bring. A multi-million dollar PR campaign is seeking to portray the country as modern and progressive. Indeed there are achievements; the country of over 9 million people has adult literacy rates of close to 100 percent and its oil wealth is fuelling an economic boom that is transforming Baku's skyline," reads the report.
The authors note that criticism of President Ilhjam Aliyev and leading government figures is frequently punished, with the international community seeming to have turned a deaf ear to the authoritarian rule. "This crackdown on dissenting opinion is being facilitated by a muted response from members of the international community, whose eyes would appear to be more firmly fixed on petro-dollars and energy security than the rights of ordinary Azeris," they say.
The Amnesty International experts further slam the Azerbaijani authorities for suppressing anti-government protests and imposing threats and intimidation on civil society groups working on human rights.
"Peaceful anti-government protest has effectively been criminalized by banning demonstrations and imprisoning those who organize and take part in them. Police use excessive force to break up peaceful, but officially unsanctioned demonstrations. Threats and intimidation against human rights defenders have been used together with legislative and administrative means to shut down and deny registration to civil society groups working on democracy and human rights," they note.
The authors further voice concerns over the deplorable situation of human rights NGOs which often face pressure and harassment and denied registration or closed on arbitrary grounds.
*On 4 March 2011, three local NGOs located in Ganja, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, Demos Public Association and the Ganja Regional Information Centre, were evicted from their premises by the authorities without any formal explanation or apparent legal grounds.
*The branches of two international organizations, the National Democratic Institute and the Human Rights House in Baku were shut down on 7 March and 10 March respectively on the grounds that they had failed to comply with registration requirements.
*On 11 August the office of Leyla Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy was destroyed, days after she had spoken against the government-endorsed forced evictions and the demolition of buildings in central Baku as part of a reconstruction project. The demolition began without any prior notice and despite a court order banning any demolition attempts on the property before 13 September 2011," the experts note.
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