NHC protests against arrest of independent election observer Anar Mammadli in Baku
On 16 December 2013 Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, Baku (EMDS) and board member of the network European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) was arrested and given a three months pre-trial detention at the Nasimin District Court in Baku.
EMDS has carried out independent observation of the last Presidential elections in Azerbaijan in October 2013 and has published a critical assessment of the election process. EMDS is one of the most professional and recognised human rights organisations in Azerbaijan, a renowned specialist on election monitoring and democracy building.
-We have asked Norway’s ambassador to Azerbaijan to bring up Anar Mammadlis case at highest possible level – and soon. We know that it is important that the Government of Azerbaijan are met with resounding protests before the case is allowed to develop too far to be stopped. We have also asked relevant Norwegian Parliamentary delegations to bring up his case, says Secretary general Bjørn Engesland.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), a network of thirteen European civil society organizations conducting or supporting citizens’ election observation throughout Europe. NHC's Berit Lindeman is also a board member of the platform together with Anar Mammadli and EMDS.
In a statement published today, EPDE is worried that the arrest of Anar Mammadli and the investigations of EMDS led by the Prosecutor general’s office since October 31st, have political motives, and are a reaction to the critical statements made by EMDS after the recent Presidential elections in Azerbaijan.
Anar Mammadli is accused of having violated Article 192.2.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan which prohibits "business activity without registration in the order provided by the legislation of the Azerbaijan Republic". He and the organization's members face criminal charges on tax evasion in significant amount, excess of official powers and engaging in illegal business activities. If convicted, Anar Mammadli risks up to five years of imprisonment. The Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre EMDS was deprived of its official registration in 2008 and has not been granted official registration since that time. EPDE is of the opinion that the arrest of Anar Mammadli is contradicting international obligations of Azerbaijan, specially the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Already since November 25th Anar Mammadli and four other staff members of EMDS, have been prohibited to leave the country. The same measures have been applied to EMDS's partner organisation, the International Cooperation of Volunteers, ICV. The European Platform for Democratic Elections protests against the arrest of Anar Mammadli. We call on the government of the Azerbaijan to immediately free Anar Mammadli and to end the investigation carried out already since more than six weeks against EMDS which seriously hamper their ongoing work on reporting on the observation of the last Presidential elections. We also call on the government to proceed with the legal registration of EMDS.
The European Platform for Democratic Elections is an association of thirteen European civil society organizations conducting or supporting citizens’ election observation throughout Europe. The Platform has been installed in December 2012 in Warsaw and aims to protect the rights of European voters through the development of citizens’ election observation.