European Rights Body Sees no Progress in Azerbaijan

Posted September 29th, 2011 at 8:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Europe’s main human-rights body expressed concern Thursday about a lack of progress on the human-rights situation in Azerbaijan.

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg urged Azerbaijan to act urgently to uphold fundamental human rights, such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Hammarberg said the government in Baku has failed to implement recommendations the council made a year ago, especially toward ending unjustified criminal prosecutions of government critics. He said “fabricated charges have been used to arrest and silence parliamentary candidates, journalists and members of youth groups.”

Hammarberg said such intimidation must end because it is inconsistent with the principles of a democratic society.

Rights groups have long criticized the oil-rich former Soviet republic, in the South Caucasus, for clamping down on dissent.

Azerbaijani officials insist the country fully enjoys freedom of speech and assembly.

Police in Baku arrested activists and political opponents during protests in March and April. Six opposition activists were convicted of disturbing public order and sentenced last month, following questionable trials.

Europe’s rights commissioner said measures should be taken for the immediate release of people imprisoned because of their views.