IHF press release on Azerbaijan


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Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 18:58:37 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: IHF press release on Azerbaijan

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Eldar Zeynalov <eldar@azeurotel.com>

IHF press release on Azerbaijan


Azerbaijan:  Restrictive Human Rights Atmosphere Makes Civil Society
Engagement in Nagorno-Karabakh Solution Difficult
 
Baku and Vienna, 30 May 2000.  Numerous civil society organizations in
Azerbaijan have expressed their frustrations at the lack of
transparency regarding the process of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh
problem--the worst social and humanitarian problem facing the country.
 
Azerbaijani NGOs  have expressed their desire to strengthen contacts
with their counterparts in Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region
through organizing meetings in the respective countries themselves,
but complained of obstacles to such initiatives, which might be
considered treasonous by officials. Azerbaijani human rights and
refugee-support organizations - for example women's and journalists
associations - started such contacts in order to build better
relations that will help normalize the situation between the two
countries and allow refugees from all sides to return to their homes.
 
But a number of civil society groups in Azerbaijan are reluctant to
express their belief that a peaceful solution to the problem is
possible and urgent.  There is a generalized fear that expressing
criticism openly may likely be viewed as "provocations" by state
authorities; refugees in particular expressed this fear.
 
Attacks on the freedom of expression are commonplace. For example, on 
29 April, at a rally organized by the opposition to demand democratic
parliamentary elections, seventeen journalists were mistreated and one
severely beaten. In another incident, on 27 May,  15 policemen
attacked the editorial offices of "Bu gun" newspaper.
 
The official practice of intimidating public displays of political
opinion could also be seen when members of the political opposition
were prevented from placing flowers on a monument to the Martyrs of
War in Gazakh on Azerbaijani National Day on 28 May. The flowers were
confiscated by the police. Earlier, on 12 May, members of the Congress
of Azerbaijan Women organized a peaceful rally to protest the harsh
economic situation and demand fair elections. Numerous women reported
having been beaten by the police.  Although there are allegations of
provocations to the police, nothing can justify their brutal behavior,
which contravenes Azeri law as well as international standards.
 
The IHF visited a settlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in
Djeyranbatan, who had been forced from their homes either in the
Nagorno-Karabakh region or other disputed territories.  Some had lived
in the settlement for as many as seven years.
 
We are deeply disturbed by the deprivations suffered by these people,
who expressed the view that their government does not assist them. 
Conditions are unsanitary and an eight-month old child had died that
day because his parents could not afford proper medical care.  One
doctor, himself an IDP, cares for over 1,000 people with no supplies
or sanitary facilities.  He earns ten dollars per month. The residents
of the settlement  received only five dollars per person per month as
IDPs, and claimed not to have received humanitarian assistance for
four years.
___________________________________________
 
Representatives of the International Helsinki Federation for Human
Rights (IHF) met with Azeri civil society groups and officials in Baku
between  27-30 May 2000.  The IHF is engaged in an analysis of the
views of civil society groups in Armenia, Azerbaijan and the
Nagorno-Karabakh region concerning human rights aspects of the ongoing
dispute and the prospects for its solution.  IHF representatives will
visit Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in June.
 
The IHF delegation included Aaron Rhodes, Executive Director, and
Brigitte Dufour, Deputy Executive Director. They met with Novruz
Mammadov, Head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Office of
the President; Hidayat Orudjov, State Advisor; and were scheduled to
meet with the Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, and President
on 30 May.

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