Azerbaijan human rights situation ‘urgent’

BY Anya van Wagtendonk  April 23, 2014 at 6:22 PM EDT
Photo by Flickr user bowers8554

Photo by Flickr user bowers8554

The state of human rights in Azerbaijan requires “urgent attention,” the commissioner of a European watchdog organization said Wednesday.

Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights at the 47-nation Council of Europe, said in a press release Wednesday that “no progress” had been made to curtail human rights abuses since the COE reported on them in August.

In particular, Muižnieks highlighted government crackdowns on freedom of expression, citing “[u]njustified and selective criminal prosecution of people expressing dissenting views, including journalists, bloggers and activists.”

“This is unacceptable,” the Commissioner said.

The release likewise charged the governing New Azerbaijan Party, headed by President Ilham Aliyev, with restricting freedom of association and assembly, and violating property rights, accusations the Azeri government denies.

“There are no problems with human rights in Azerbaijan,” said New Azerbaijan Party deputy executive secretary Mubariz Gurbanly. “Those who talk about human rights violations in our country are biased and try to blacken Azerbaijan’s image.”