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In 2014, the Government launched an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. Prominent human rights defenders joined other political prisoners in Azerbaijan’s jails on fabricated criminal charges of financial irregularities. Although most have since then been released following international pressure, after spending years in prison, the situation of defenders remains precarious due to, among other things, legislation that prevents human rights NGOs from registering as such, freezing of their organisations’ bank accounts, significant limitations posed on their access to foreign funding, lack of public spaces for human rights events, office closures, or arbitrary travel restrictions.
The harassment of dissenting voices doesn’t stop at the country’s borders, as Azerbaijan abuses Interpol arrest warrants to try and silence exiled human rights defenders and opposition politicians. The country also ignores the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to human rights defenders. Azerbaijan comes third in the region, after Turkey and Russia, in terms of the numbers of imprisoned journalists. Conditions of detention remain appalling, with the highest number of deaths in custody in the South Caucasus region.