ARI Movement expresses serious concern over the detention of two civil rights activists

17 July 2009

The ARI Movement regrets the arrest of two civil rights activists in Azerbaijan last Wednesday and assesses this incident as a setback for the region’s democratic development. Adnan Hadjizadeh and Emin Milli were beaten by strangers in a bar in Baku on the night of July 8. The police released the perpetrators while detaining Hadjizadeh and Milli for “Hooliganism”. The two well-known and supported Azerbaijani youth activists are associated with the Alumni Network and OL! Youth Movement, grassroots movements that are among the project partners of the ARI Movement. Since last week Emin and Adnan have been held in custody in Baku, irregularities in the legal proceedings have been reported. We recognize the ongoing violations as basic violations of human rights and consider Adnan and Emin’s arrest as a strike against youth activism in Azerbaijan.

The international community has reacted strongly to this tragic event. The Embassies of the United States of America, Norway and Germany, as well as leading international media outlets (such as the New York Times and the Washington Post) and international civil society organizations have denounced the incident. The U.S. Embassy asked “that the Government of Azerbaijan exercise due process in this case and respect the rights of these individuals.” The Civil Society Forum in a letter to Azerbaijani President Aliyev requested “to detain and administer sanctions against attackers of the active young people Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade; to release the attacked; and to ensure fair judicial investigation”. Political leaders such as Cem Ozdemir in Germany have also written to President Aliyev in an attempt to break the impasse. Unfortunately, officials of the Republic of Turkey and the ruling party have not yet made any announcement on this issue. The ARI Movement feels that it is very unfortunate that the Turkish authorities have chosen to stay silent on this incident. The debate on Turkey's anchor to the western alliance is continuing in the world today and taking positions on issues like this would help promote the debate to support Western values and principles.

The ARI Movement is an organization that supports activism and promotes leadership among the youth in Turkey. Now in our 15th year, as an organization we have focused on the networking of young people throughout the surrounding region of Turkey and beyond. As a principle we encourage youth to become active in civil and political life and take positions on issues that they care about. We also strongly encourage young people to lead with their ideas, issues and projects. International cooperation among NGO's on issues like women's rights, rule of law the environment, youth participation and empowerment, are all values which we at ARI represent.

We are quite saddened by the recent developments in Azerbaijan and call on the Azerbaijani government to authorize the release of Adnan and Emin immediately, abide to the rule of law and respect the right to freedom of expression as defined by the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights to which Azerbaijan is a party. Azerbaijan is in a position to demonstrate its alliance with the West and with its increasing economic and political power in the region, incidents such as this would seem to harm its international reputation during a period where it should be getting stronger and more self-confident. We also call on the Turkish government to officially recognize the ongoing proceedings and join with Turkish civil society and our international partners to establish a common platform to bring freedom to these young people who were only trying to do what many young people do all over the world - get the attention of officials and elders to attain more democracy and development. A specific proposal would be to immediately have a senior Turkish delegation along with the invitation and participation of Cem Ozdemir to go to Baku and address the issue. This action would go a long way to influence the process in a positive manner.



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