Nils Muiznieks, commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, Michel Forst, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Dunja Mijatovic representative on freedom of the media at the OSCE penned a joint article on the upcocming European Games and the repression in Azerbaijan.
The three authors hoped that the athletes competing in the first European Games "stand up to halt the crackdown on human rights defenders occurring in Azerbaijan."
June 12, Azerbaijan will host the world's and the country's first European Games. Over 6000 athletes from 50 countries will compete in various sports competions for sixteen days. The country has been heavily criticized by rights watchdogs of the unprecedented crackdown and repression in the run up to the games.
Muiznieks, Forst and Mijatovic, highlight three cases in particular in their piece to explain the "magnitude of repression" - Rasul Jafarov, Khadija Ismayil, and Leyla Yunus.
This wave of repression however does not only touch the local journalists, activists and defenders. Foreigners have also been targeted write the experts. "Journalists, members of non-governmental organizations and UN officials have also experienced first-hand the callous arsenal of intimidation, harassment, and obstruction the Azerbaijani authorities have put in place to stifle criticism".
"The reality is that the rule of law has been twisted to justify repression: criminal prosecutions have been initiated to punish those who dissent; legislation has been introduced to restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations; the police been used to repress peaceful protesters. Practically all the partners of human-rights organizations have been detained, subjected to pressure to disrupt their activities or have fled the country as a consequence of the reprisals the authorities orchestrated against them."
The three international experts call on the athletes to be aware of the present situation in Azerbaijan and use the opportunity of the games to support those who have been unjustly jailed.