Update: 27.02.2015

Azerbaijan: Human rights defender takes refuge in Swiss embassy

In the past Emin Huseynov has repeatedly stood up for freedom of expression and the right to protest peacefully. In summer 2014, the pressure on the dedicated human rights defender increased in the course of a hardening of the political regime of President Ilham Alijev. In fear of his personal security Huseynov fled to the Swiss embassy in Baku where he has been staying for over 6 months now.

According to a report by the programme «Rundschau» on Swiss public television, Switzerland has been negotiating in vain with Azerbaijani authorities over guarantees for the human rights defender.

Good bilateral relationship

Switzerland and Azerbaijan – a country with substantial oil and gas deposits – have long been enjoying close relations. Highest-level meetings take place several times a year. Azerbaijan is an interesting economic partner for Switzerland. Several Swiss enterprises are active there and vice versa. Azerbaijan of late also gained importance for the European and Swiss energy supply. One of the most important gas pipelines for the supply of Western Europe is partially financed by the Swiss energy supplier Axpo.

But since Emin Huseynow was granted asylum in the Swiss embassy a shadow has been cast over the good relations between Baku and Bern, according to the «Rundschau» report. At the time of his flight several complaints were pending against the 35 year-old (for example for tax evasion) for which reason he feared to be imprisoned and tortured.

Unparalleled repression

Huseynov is founder of Azerbaijan’s leading organization for the advancement of media rights, the Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety. Among other things he collected information on various demonstrations and advocated against the suppression of the freedom of expression.

Huseynov’s seeking protection in the Swiss embassy has to be seen before a background of an unprecedented wave of repression against members of the opposition, lawyers, bloggers and journalists that started before the beginning of the presidential election in 2013. It was at the same time that several politicians running for the opposition were imprisoned for political reasons.

More than 100 human rights defenders in political detention

The presidential election in October 2013 which confirmed long-standing head of state Alijev was followed by police raids, house searches, imprisonments and other repressions of the civil society, as Human Rights House confirms upon request. The repression against the civil society has been particularly helped by an act from the year 2009 that criminalises NGOs.

Up to summer 2014 authorities had arrested more than 100 of Huseynov’s fellow campaigners for specious reasons according to Azerbaijani sources. The Human Rights House website also documents the arrest of a renowned human rights lawyer, an NGO head of campaign as well as numerous journalists and bloggers.

Unsuccessful negotiations by the FDFA so far

Switzerland is at present granting the stay at the embassy for humanitarian reasons, as the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) confirmed. Switzerland is «conducting negotiations with Azerbaijani authorities and the government to find a favourable solution for the affected person». Up to now the place of stay of Huseynov in the embassy in Baku was kept secret. The FDFA probably had hoped that a quick solution would be found before the background of the economic relations. But apparently the diplomats were unable to find a way out.

Since 2013, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has increasingly supported human rights defenders by launching its own human rights guidelines in December 2013. It did so to standardise the practice of all Swiss representations abroad towards persons advocating human rights.

The protection of human rights defenders was given top priority by Switzerland during its OSCE Chairmanship in 2014. The Swiss authorities organised several conferences on the topic, among them a meeting in Bern in June 2014. One of the human rights defenders participating from the OSCE countries was Emin Huseynov.

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