| Den norske Helsingforskomité

Withdraw the claim against the human rights defender Leila Yunus immediately

(21/01-2009) Authorities of the republic of Azerbaijan should immediately withdraw a libel case against the internationally renowned human rights defender Leila Yunus, the Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy.

She has for a long time extensively criticised human right violations in Azerbaijan. The complaint against her is based on an interview where she pointed out that several officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been convicted for kidnapping a few years ago. The statements where published on the web-page Day.az on December 3, 2008. - The rights of Leila Yunus to make the statements that made the Ministry of Interior bring the libel case against her, is protected by freedom of expression provisions that are binding on Azerbaijan. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both protects expressions critical of governments and Ministry officials, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. "Little respect for freedom of expression and strong media control in Azerbaijan is causing great concern and has attracted considerable international criticism during recent years. The libel case brought against Leyla Yunus contributes to aggravating an already serious situation."

Press Prizes for Russia and Eastern Europe Announced

Three of the prize winners for this years press prizes ”Free Press of Russia” and ”Free Press of Eastern Europe”, was nominated by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The winners were announced by The Freedom of Expression Foundation of Oslo and the ZEIT Foundation of Hamburg this monday. The Russian journalist Zoya Svetova, the azerbaijani journalist Natiq Gavadli and the Azerbaijani newspaper Azaliq will receive their prizes together with the other winners at the Norwegian Nobel Institute on 3 june.

Read more about Press Prizes for Russia and Eastern Europe Announced

The 2009 Rafto Prize Laureate:

Malahat Nasibova from Azerbaijan

(24/09-2009) The Rafto Prize for 2009 goes to journalist and human rights activist Malahat Nasibova. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee would like to congratulate Malahat Nasibova with this years Rafto Price. The prize will hopefully lead to a greater focus on the grave situation for independent press and human rights in Azerbaijan.

Read more about Malahat Nasibova from Azerbaijan

Referendum in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear

(19/03-2009) The Referendum over Constitutional amendments in the Republic of Azerbaijan took place in an atmosphere of intimidation of voters and of all those who opposed the reform of the Constitution. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has listened to numerous witnesses recounting how they have been subjected to pressure to coerce them to go the vote during yesterdays’ poll. The hastily called referendum was never subjected to a meaningful public debate, which would have allowed for raising any relevant concerns related to the Constitutional reforms. The speedy procedure also puts into question the legality of the called referendum.

Read more about Referendum in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear

Rafto Prize 2009 awarded to Malahat Nasibova

(05/11-2009) The 2009 Rafto Prize for Human Rights was awarded to journalist and human rights defender Malahat Nasibova from Azerbaijan on 1 November.

Read more about Rafto Prize 2009 awarded to Malahat Nasibova

Concern over new law for NGOs

(09/11-2009) The Human Rights House Foundation, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Rafto Foundation, the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders and the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius are concerned about the noticeable tendency in Azerbaijan to put local non-governmental organisations under increased government control following the recent amendments to the NGO law. The amended law allows the government to collect information on NGOs without referring to any specific purpose articulated in this or other laws. This concern was expressed in a letter the above mentioned organisations sent to the Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov on friday 6 November.


The CoE Committee for the Prevention of Torture publishes a report on Azerbaijan for the first time since 2002

(26/11-2009) Today, the CoE Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) publishes the report of its ad hoc visit to Azerbaijan in December 2008. Even though visits were conducted also in 2004, 2005 and 2006 the Government of Azerbaijan has not agreed to publish any of the reports since 2002. The delegation visited several places of detention as well as hospitals and psychiatric institutions and received several credible allegations from prisoners of deliberate physical ill-treatment and excessive use of force by prison officers. The delegation also revealed insufficient health care systems, overcrowding and excessive use on confinement of prisoners to the cell. Although some improvements to the physical conditions of places of detention was observed, the conditions in non-refurbished ward remains poor.

Read more about The CoE Committee for the Prevention of Torture publishes a report on Azerbaijan for the first time since 2002

Nakhchivan's activists attacked

(16/12-2009) Two employees of the Nakhchivan-based “Democracy and NGO Development Resource Center” were attacked and seriously beaten by an orchestrated group of athletic mobsters on 15 December. Both NGO activists, Ilgar Nasibov and Vafadar Eyvazov were trying to arrange a seminar in the University as part of the project funded by the Norwegian Embassy to combat widespread corruption at Nakhchivan State University. At that time, a group of some fifty sportsmen studying at Sport faculty of the University urged the activists to leave the University campus. When refused, the sportsmen dragged out the activists and fell them down and beat them heavily.
Malahat Nasibova, 2009 Rafto award-winning journalist of «Azadliq» radio (Azerbaijani service of RFERL), who also heads the “Democracy and NGO development Resource Center”, said her husband Ilgar Nasibov and employee Vafadar Eyvazov suffer from rib fractures caused by heavy injuries on abdominal cavity and spine.

Read more about Nakhchivan's activists attacked