European Parliament must press Azerbaijan on rights abuse
(Brussels, 24 May 2012) As millions of Europeans eagerly anticipate Saturday’s finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, and on the day the European Parliament debates human rights in Azerbaijan, Amnesty International has appealed to all European Union institutions to condemn human rights abuses there.
“We’ve observed a fresh wave of human rights violations in Azerbaijan against people who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
On Monday, following demonstrations in Baku, police reportedly forced participants onto buses, beating several of them and detaining 38. An organiser, Abulfaz Gurbanly, told Amnesty International that he was punched, kicked and struck by a truncheon while he was being held at a police station. He said several other protesters were also beaten while in custody.
“In addition, seventeen prisoners of conscience remain behind bars in Azerbaijan for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression”, said Beger.”MEPs should press the Azerbaijani authorities immediately and unconditionally to release all prisoners of conscience.”
Local activists have sought to use the Eurovision Song Contest to highlight human rights abuses but the contest’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union, has remained silent about the recent violations. Amnesty International believes this absence of reaction by EBU has given the authorities carte blanche to continue violently crushing dissent. Activists now fear further persecution following the event.
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