In recent weeks, there has been an increased effort to limit the work of civil society in Azerbaijan. According to the online publication The Peninsula, five young activists were arrested this week for organizing a nationwide day of protest scheduled for today. The imprisoned activists have been charged “hooliganism,” just as noted “Donkey Bloggers” Adnan Haji-zadeh and Emin Milli were charged in July 2009.
Also, on March 9, Transitions Online reported that authorities in Azerbaijan have increased efforts to monitor online activists. For example, Jabbar Savalan, a 20-year-old activist, was arrested in early February for posting comments on Facebook about holding Egypt-style protests in Azerbaijan. (Despite these arrests, young protestors still took to the streets today in Baku.)
In addition to this string of arrests and increased monitoring, on March 10, the Azerbaijan office of World Movement participating organization Human Rights House Network was closed down by the Ministry of Justice. Prior to being shut down, the Human Rights House office was given no warnings and received no complaints regarding its timely reports to authorities. However, on February 10, police conducted an inspection of the office, and police officers threatened the office with eviction if it did not inform authorities of all gatherings and provide a list of its participants.
In its “Defending Civil Society” report, the World Movement for Democracy articulates six principles that govern and protect CSOs from repressive intrusions on the part of governments. The principles state that “Civil society representatives, individually and through their organizations, enjoy the right to freedom of expression;” “Individuals and NGOs have the right to use the Internet and web-based technologies to communicate more effectively,” and “Once established, NGOs have the right to operate free from unwarranted state intrusion or interference in their affairs.”
About the arrests
About the monitoring of social networking in Azerbaijan
About today’s protests
About the closure of the Human Rights House Network office in Baku
About human rights in Azerbaijan (in Russian)
About the Defending Civil Society project