The Azerbaijani government sentenced at least 25 journalists and political and youth activists to long prison terms in politically motivated, unfair trials in 2017, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2018.
Draconian laws and regulations on nongovernmental organizations made it almost impossible for independent groups to fund and carry out their work. In a violent campaign, police arrested and ill-treated dozens of gay men and transgender women to coerce bribes and other information. Torture and ill-treatment in custody with impunity is common, and legal changes reduced the number of lawyers willing to take politically sensitive cases.
“Over the past year, Azerbaijani authorities have sustained a concerted assault on government critics, threatening the survival of independent activism in the country,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “Azerbaijan should end the crackdown, release everyone who has been wrongly imprisoned, and allow independent groups to function without undue interference.”
In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
The United States, the European Union, and Azerbaijan’s other bilateral and international partners criticized the government’s targeting of critics, but have not effectively leveraged their relationships with the government to secure meaningful rights improvements. The EU started negotiations for a new comprehensive partnership agreement with Azerbaijan despite failing to secure real human rights reforms.