Urgent Interventions

Azerbaijan : wave of attacks against several human rights defenders


AZE 001/0403/OBS 021
Attacks / Threats / Harassment
30th April 2003

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH
and OMCT joint program, requests your urgent intervention in the
following situation in Azerbaijan

Brief description of the facts :

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Centre of
Azerbaijan (HRCA) of a wave of attacks and acts of harassment against
several human rights defenders, in particular, M. Eldar Zeynalov, the
director of the HRCA, as well as members of his family, and Mrs.
Leyla Yunus, the director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy.

According to the information received, on 23rd April, a group of
about 30 to 50 people attacked the office of the HCRA with eggs and
chemicals. Protestors accused M. Zeynalov of treason and burned an
effigy of him. A member of the Organization for the Liberation of
Karabakh threatened to kill Eldar Zeynalov and to destroy the Human
Rights Centre in a suicide attack. When the police were called, one
of the policemen reportedly expressed his support for the violent

This attack followed the accusations made on 22nd April, by members
of pro-governmental human rights organizations on the state-run
television station against M. Zeynalov and Mrs.Yunus, calling them
"enemies of the people". Eldar Zeynalov's whereabouts and home
telephone number were broadcast, and the audience was asked to take
action. The HRCA and the Institute for Peace and Democracy are part
of the Federation of Azerbaijani Human Rights Organizations and have
been documenting human rights violations in Azerbaijan. They have
been publicly criticized several times by pro-governmental

On the day of the attack, M. Zeynalov had returned to Baku after
participating in a workshop on management skills of NGOS in the
region of Nagorno Karabakh with his wife Mrs Zalika Tahirova, who is
a coordinator for Amnesty International Group in Azerbaijan. These
attacks are allegedly part of campaign against M. Zeynalov aimed at
proving that he has an ethnic Armenian origin and therefore works
against the interest of Azerbaijan, in particular concerning the
disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh, self proclaimed State mainly
populated by Armenians. This continues to be a very sensitive issue,
in particular in the pre electoral context (elections are due to take
place in October). According to an Azeri television report on 24
April, the Ministry of Interior is considering criminal procedures
against Eldar Zeynalov on issues relating to his visit to Armenia.

On 25 April, the Human Rights Centre was again attacked, with
incumbent political party reportedly participating in the violence.
On the same day, a pro-government newspaper also condemned Eldar
Zeynalov, by writing that he was not of Azeri origin.

On several occasions, M. Zeynalov has asked for police protection.
After the second attack and in view of the lack of reaction on the
part of the authorities he decided to hire security guards. He had
already concluded an agreement with a firm for a month. In the
morning of the 29th April, the security guards were removed,
allegedly following pressure put by the Ministry of National
Security. M. Zeynalov is currently in Geneva to present a joint
alternative report on Azerbaijan to the Committee Against Torture
that has been prepared in collaboration with the World Organisation
Against Torture (OMCT) and the International League for Human Rights.
After his departure to Geneva, the attacks upon his offices stopped
but the phone calls at his offices and to his relatives has
continued. Relatives have been asked about the origins of the family,
asking for marriage certificates, etc, allegedly to find out whether
they have an Armenian origin. Other acts of administrative harassment
such as the revision of the documents for the offices premises that
are rented by the organization have started and it is feared that
administrative harassment will continue in order to put further
pressure on the organisation.

Furthermore, on 28 April, Eldar Zeynalov's sister in law, Zemfira
Yusif-Zade and father in law Isakh Tahirov (84 years old) were beaten
up by their neighbours, who demanded that they should leave the
country. The police were called but reportedly refused to protect

On the same day, a group of 30 to 40 members of the ruling party of
Azerbaijan, went to the office of the Institute for Peace and
Democracy. They attacked the office and demanded that the director of
the institute, Leyla Yunus, should also leave the country. This
attack had previously been announced on TV. Despite the specific
request that had been made for the police to provide protection no
policemen were there and the attack occurred as had been announced.

The Observatory is very concerned for the physical and psychological
integrity of M. Zeynalov and the members of his family as well as Mrs
Leyla Yunus and other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and the
obstacles that hindering their legitimate work for the promotion and
protection of human rights. The Observatory is also concerned by
public statements that have been made by the authorities and by
private groups that are putting human rights defenders at risk, and
in that regard it recalls the duty of the State, in accordance with
the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General
Assembly in 1998 "to take all necessary measures to ensure the
protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and
in association with others, against any violence, threats,
retaliation, de facto o de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or
any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate
exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration."
(article 12).

Action requested :

Please write to the Azeri authorities urging them to :

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of M. Zeynalov,
and members of his family as well as Mrs. Yunus and all human rights
defenders and ensure that they are able to pursue freely their human
rights activities;

ii. Investigate the attacks, identify those responsible and bring
them to trial;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights
Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in
particular its article 1 which provides that "every person has the
right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and
fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national
and international level. " and article 12 mentioned above;

iv. Guarantee the effective respect of fundamental rights and
liberties in accordance with the provisions of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional pacts
and covenants ratified by Azerbaijan.

Adresses :

H.E. Heydar Aliev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of
the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St.,
Baku 370066, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 92 06 25, +994 12 92 28 68,

Prosecutor's Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax:
+994 12 92 06 82, +994 12 92 26 63

Minister of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov
Fax: + 994 12 92 45 90

Geneva-Paris, 30th April 2003

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken, quoting the reference
number given above.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the
protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete
support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the
French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax: FIDH : +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT : (+ 41 22) 809 49 39 / 809 49 29
E-mail :
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