Following news of sentencing of prominent rights activist Leyla Yunus 59 to 8.5 years and her husband, well known historian Arif Yunus 60 to 7 years, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) epxressed her shock and anger at the verdict. “I am shocked and outraged by the sentencing of Leyla and Arif Yunus for eight-and-a-half and seven years of imprisonment, respectively,” said Brasseur.
“The Council of Europe has repeatedly urged the authorities to stop the unprecedented crackdown on civil society – including reprisals and judicial harassment of human rights defenders and independent media – and address human rights problems in the country,” she said.
However, despite numerous appeals the situation did not change reads the statement. “Today’s decision is further proof of serious and systemic human rights problems in Azerbaijan,” continued the President.
In June, the PACE issued a resolution calling on the government of Azerbaijan:
- to end systemic repression of human rights defenders, the media and those critical of the government;
- release all political prisoners
- stop the reprisal of journalists and others who express critical opinions.
Shortly after the sentencing Nils Muiznieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe issued the following statement:
"I am appalled and saddened by Baku Court’s decision to sentence Leyla and Arif Yunus to respectively 8 years and a half and 7 years of prison. These sentences are a glaring illustration of the ongoing repression in Azerbaijan, where human rights defenders are selectively targeted with criminal prosecutions on charges that defy credibility. In my intervention before the European Court of Human Rights last April (LINK) I argued why Leyla and Arif, as well as other Azerbaijani human rights defenders should not be in prison. It is high time that the Azerbaijani authorities end the repression and show more attachment to the values of human rights, democracy and rule of law that they have committed to by joining the Council of Europe".