Alert: Afghanistan one year on: open season on the defence of human rights

Sport for Rights' Open Letter to the German National Olympic Committee

Letter from the Sport for Rights Campaign, which OMCT is a member of, to the German National Olympic Committee on Azerbaijan. 'Sport for Rights' campaign has been established to raise the problem of political prisoners in the context of the forthcoming international sporting events to be hosted by Azerbaijan.

DrMichael Vesper


German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB)


60528Frankfurt am Main


21 May 2015

DearMr Vesper,

Weare writing to you as members of the Sport for Rights campaign, a coalition ofinternational organisations working to draw attention to the human rightssituation in Azerbaijan in the context of next month’s European Games. As youknow, the Azerbaijani authorities have been carrying out an unprecedented humanrights crackdown, working aggressively to silence all forms of criticism anddissent.

Wewanted to thank you for your comments on several occasions in recent months,expressing concern regarding restrictions on press freedom and repressivemeasures taken against journalists in Azerbaijan. We have also appreciated yourwillingness to engage with the human rights community on these issues, and yourcommitment to raising these concerns in your meetings with Azerbaijaniofficials.

Yourcomments have come at a critical time, when too many officials connected to theEuropean Games are all too willing to turn a blind eye towards human rightsabuses in Azerbaijan, and in some cases, actively help the Azerbaijani government’sattempt to whitewash its image. We have been using your remarks as a positiveexample, encouraging representatives from other National Olympic Committeesacross Europe to publicly support human rights in Azerbaijan.

Weare writing to you now with an additional request. As you may know, thecrackdown has resulted in the arrests of dozens of political prisoners,including eight journalists and human rights defenders. They have been targetedfor their work defending the rights of others, and telling the truth about thesituation in their country. We urge you to take the opportunity now, in thelast few weeks before the Games, to publicly call for the release of theseindividuals. We have provided a list as an appendix.

Thank you once again for your attention to our issues and yoursupport for our jailed colleagues in Azerbaijan.

Sincerely yours, (for the signatory organisations see the pdf attached)



  1. Nijat Aliyev – editor-in-chief of thewebsite, serving a 10-year prison sentence on spuriouscharges of drug possession and the illegal import and sale of religiousliterature.
  2. Araz Guliyev – editor of the, serving an eight-year prison sentence on spurious charges ofillegal possession of weapons, inciting hatred, and offensive actionagainst the flag or emblem of Azerbaijan.
  3. Parviz HashimliBizim Yol newspaper reporter and editor of the moderator.azwebsite, serving an eight-year prison sentence on spurious charges oforganising the sale of weapons from Iran.
  4. Seymur HeziAzadliq newspaper reporter and presenter of the AzerbaijanHour satellite television programme, serving a five-year prison sentenceon spurious hooliganism charges.
  5. Khadija Ismayilova – Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty journalist detained on spurious charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship,tax evasion, abuse of power, and inciting someone to attempt suicide.
  6. Hilal Mammadov – editor-in-chief of Tolishi Sedo newspaper, serving afive-year prison sentence on spurious charges of drug possession, treason,and inciting hatred.
  7. Rauf MirkadirovZerkalo newspaper columnist, detained on spurious treasoncharges, awaiting trial.
  8. Tofig YagubluYenu Musavat newspaper columnist, serving a five-year prisonsentence on spurious charges of organising mass riots and using violenceagainst police officers.

Jailed(and effectively jailed) human rights defenders:

  1. Intigam Aliyev – human rightslawyer and Chairman of the Legal Education Society, serving a 7.5-yearprison sentence on spurious charges of tax evasion, illegalentrepreneurship, and abuse of power.
  2. Emin Huseynov – Director of theInstitute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, trapped at the Swiss Embassyin Baku, facing arrest on spurious charges of tax evasion, illegalentrepreneurship, and abuse of power.
  3. Rasul Jafarov – Chairman of theHuman Rights Club, serving a 6.5-year prison sentence on spurious chargesof tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of power.
  4. Anar Mammadli – Chairman of theElection Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, serving a 5.5-yearprison sentence on spurious charges of tax evasion, illegalentrepreneurship, and abuse of power.
  5. Arif Yunus – historian andacademic, detained on spurious charges of treason and fraud, awaitingtrial.
  6. Leyla Yunus – Director of theInstitute for Peace and Democracy, detained on spurious charges oftreason, fraud, forgery, tax evasion, and illegal entrepreneurship,awaiting trial.
Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts