Today, August 20, a group of United Nations human rights experts* condemned the recent prison sentencing of prominent Azerbaijani human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus. The experts called it “manifestly politically motivated and representative of the continuing repression of independent civil society in Azerbaijan.”
“The authorities of Azerbaijan must put an end immediately to all forms of persecution against human rights activists in the country,” the experts said. “Leyla and Arif Yunus are two of many activists in Azerbaijan, which include Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev, who have been targeted because of their legitimate human rights work.”
“Criminalization of those working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country is deeply disconcerting,” the experts said, reiterating a call on the authorities they made one year ago “to reverse the trend of repression, criminalization and prosecution of human rights work in the country.”
“Silencing these prominent voices is having a devastating impact on the Azerbaijani civil society as a whole".
“We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately provide them with adequate medical care”.
“We are troubled at the lack of examination of the evidence provided and the refusal to allow international independent observers into the courtroom during the trial proceedings,” the experts noted.
The UN experts reminded the Azerbaijani authorities of their legal obligations under international human rights law that guarantees everyone in Azerbaijan the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association, the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty, the right to a fair trial and the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
“The State has the primary responsibility to protect human rights defenders from any form of harassment, intimidation and retaliation arising as a result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities,” they stressed.
(*) The experts: Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Mónica Pinto, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; and Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.