EU must act on Azerbaijan crackdown
(Brussels 16 November 2011) As Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, begins her visit to Azerbaijan, Amnesty International has stressed that the EU must not turn a blind eye to widespread human rights violations there.
“The Azerbaijani authorities’ recent clampdown sends a clear message: public expression of dissent will not be tolerated, nor will any attempt to galvanise public opinion against the current regime,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “The EU must take the opportunity of Baroness Ashton’s visit to press the authorities to release prisoners of conscience and halt the suppression of peaceful protest, critical opinion and political opposition.”
Amnesty International has issued a report on the suppression of dissent since protests erupted in March. The spring that never blossomed: Freedoms suppressed in Azerbaijan describes the wave of intimidation and arrests following protests against corruption and growing suppression of independent media, NGOs and opposition parties. Since March, youth activists and opposition figures have been jailed on arbitrary charges, and journalists and human rights defenders have been harassed. Amnesty International considers 17 people convicted following the protests to be prisoners of conscience and has demanded their immediate release.
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