April 28, a number of leading rights watchdogs organized a session on Azerbaijan's deteriorating rights record ahead of the European Games in Baku.
In a panel "Give Human Rights a Sporting Chance in Azerbaijan" Index on Censorship, Human Rights Watch and Article 19 discussed the recent sentencing of rights activist Rasul Jafarov and human rights defender and prominent lawyer Intigam Aliyev as well as arrests of many other prominent Azerbaijanis.
In an interview with Azadliq Radiosu Melody Patry, Senior Advocacy Officer at Index on Censorship said, "the idea was to have an information briefing and discussion with a few speakers who have been working on Azerbaijan for a few years now, in the run up to the European Games".
The event was attended by journalists and others interested in the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan.
Following brief introduction by the speakers the floor was open to a general discussion.
"One of the points raised during the discussion was that the situation is completely different today in Azerbaijan than from what it was three years ago, when Azerbaijan hosted the Eurovision song contest. At that time it was still possible to organize side events, or even peaceful protests in Azerbaijan to denounce rights violations. Today, all of the people involved in "Sing for Democracy" campaign are behind bars or in hiding", said Patry.
Panelists Rebecca Vincent and Emin Milli encouraged British journalists planning to cover the games to talk to Azerbaijani people in order to get a sense of reliaty on the ground.
European Games start on June 12 and will end on June 28.