List of political prisoners in Azerbaijan published today.
Azerbaijan's independent civil society has for a long time been engaged in a major effort to go through the lists of possible political prisoners in the country, to identify those that meet the criteria adopted by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. The list, containing as many as 98 names, was compiled under the leadership of Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov. Both Leylas and Rasuls own names have been added to the list the last few weeks.
The Republic of Azerbaijan holds the Chairmanship Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. Azerbaijan's
civil society has for a long time been engaged in a major effort to go through the lists of possible political prisoners in
the country, to identify those that meet the criteria adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in autumn 2012
(Res 1900, 3 October, 2012). The work that has been carried out is very thorough. The involved have studied court documents,
monitored court cases, interviewed families and lawyers, the press coverage of the cases has been reviewed. The list is supported
by 29 reputable organizations and individuals. In the Norwegian Helsinki Committee's view the list represents the most comprehensive
and trustworthy review of Azerbaijani prisoners made until now.
The work has been led by Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov. As an irony of fate, and as a confirmation that the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan is enormous, unsolved and underestimated, Yunus and Jafarov now find themselves behind bars, and having been added to the lists of prisoners when those lists today are published in English for the first time. The two human rights defenders have been detained in recent weeks, together with Leyla Yunus’ husband, the historian and peace & reconciliation activist Arif Yunus and the lawyer and human rights defender Intigam Aliyev. They risk many years in prison, the Yunus’ up to life in prison. Many other regime critics have ended up behind bars for the past eighteen months, others have gone into hiding or sought exile.
The list now contains a total of 98 names, many of them are Azerbaijan's best known and most respected journalists, human rights defenders, youth activists and opposition politicians.
The efforts to determine who are the political prisoners in Azerbaijan have a long history, the one related to the Council of Europe started when Azerbaijan applied for membership in the late nineties. When the South Caucasian country was accepted to the Council of Europe together with Armenia, in January 2001, a solution of the problem of political prisoners was one of the conditions set for the membership. The next thirteen years have passed without the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly being able to accept a reconciled list of who should be defined as a political prisoner. A lot of work was laid down by the Parliamentary Assembly's rapporteur Christoph Strässer, but his report was unfortunately rejected under PACE meeting in January 2013. After this, the imprisonment of dissidents has intensified.
The list published today proves that we are far from reaching our goal: Azerbaijan with no political prisoners.