Thomas Hammarberg: Bloggers case of our main concerns in Azerbaijan

On 1 October 2009, Elnur Majidli, representing the Alumni Network (AN Network) in France, and the Chairman of the Committee of Human Rights, Chingiz Ganizade, met with High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg.

Current human rights issues in Azerbaijan were discussed during the meeting held at the central office of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Among these issues, the focus was on the arrest of young bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada, political prisoners and factors preventing the effective development of democracy in the country.

Chingiz Ganizade emphasized the importance of the High Commissioner’s support in these matters, emphasizing the poor situation of democracy in the country. He then requested the Council of Europe to intervene in the human rights field in order to assist in the improvement of the current situation.

Introducing himself as a representative of the AN Network, Elnur Majidli talked about the illegal arrest of one of the network’s co-founders Emin Milli and of the co-founder of the OL! [Be!] Youth Movement Adnan Hajizada. He also stressed the importance of the Council of Europe’s support in securing their release.

Thomas Hammarberg said that he is informed about the current situation in Azerbaijan and is seriously concerned about bloggers’ (Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada) arrest.

The High Commissioner also mentioned that the Council of Europe is following the trial attentively and that this case is one of their main concerns in Azerbaijan.

Referring to the existence of problems with national minorities in Azerbaijan, Hammarberg voiced his doubts regarding the death of the director of the Talish Cultural Centre Novruzali Mammadov, who passed away in the prison.

Chingiz Ganizade objected that there are no problems with national minorities in Azerbaijan and that Novruzali Mammadov as well as other journalists have been arrested for their political activity rather than their belonging to a national minority.

To the question of the High Commissioner as to which issue should be followed most closely in Azerbaijan, Chingiz Ganizade answered pointing out the existence of political prisoners.

Observing that since the 18 March 2009 Constitutional Referendum Azerbaijan has increasingly moved away from democratic principles, Elnur Majidli cautioned against the growth of serious threats to freedom of expression in the country and reiterated that the arrest of the two young bloggers was due to their exercising the right to free speech.

The release of arrested journalists was also touched upon during the meeting.

Thomas Hammarberg said that he will be visiting Azerbaijan at the beginning of 2010 and that he will discuss the above-mentioned issues during his meetings with State officials. During his visit, he is also planning to meet with NGOs working in the field of human rights and democracy.

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