The Azerbaijani government has shown complete disregard for the right of people to hold peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch reported.
According to the statement, the Azerbaijani police violently dispersed two peaceful protests in the center of Baku on October 19 and 20, 2019. Dozens of peaceful opposition and civil activists were detained and brutally beaten. Among the detainees was the leader of the opposition Popular Front Party Ali Karimli, who received numerous injuries when beaten by police and was detained for several hours.
“Once again, the Azerbaijani government has shown complete disregard for people’s right to hold peaceful protests,” said Giorgi Gogia, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately release all protesters and investigate any allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement.”
Authorities also detained at least 10 senior members of the opposition party before the rally on October 19. Among them was the well-known opposition journalist Seymur Hazy, who was detained on October 17 and sentenced on the same day to 15 days of administrative arrest.
“Police also dispersed several dozen women’s rights activists who gathered in the city center on October 20 to protest domestic violence. In particular the protesters wanted to highlight the recent killing of Leyla Mammadova, whose husband stabbed her to death in public, in front of her children and passersby. Police cordoned off the protest area and rounded up several activists, putting them on a bus and releasing them shortly thereafter,” the source noted.
Although the Azerbaijani constitution provides that groups can assemble peacefully after simple prior notification to the relevant government agency, in practice, authorities require that assemblies receive permission issued by the authorities.
Azerbaijan is a party to a number of human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges the government to respect the right to assembly and to refrain from cruel treatment of protesters.
“Although the demonstration was unsanctioned, the police should not have used force to disperse protesters who posed no threat,” Gogia said. “Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right, and the Azerbaijani authorities are obligated to tolerate peaceful protests, even in Baku’s center.”