Brussels, 16 June 2020
Excessive measures adopted in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Azerbaijan
The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) issued a statement on the excessive measures adopted in the context of the pandemic in Azerbaijan. In a previous statement in March, the Steering Committee of the EaP CSF already expressed its concern on the suppression of civil liberties in Azerbaijan. Now, it appeals again for the government of Azerbaijan to instantly end the violations of civil liberties during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Steering Committee condemns the excessive measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic in Azerbaijan. The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan decided to impose a strict lockdown regime between Saturday 6 June and Monday 8 June in the cities of Baku, Sumgayit, Ganja, Lankaran and the Absheron district. People could not leave their homes, except for medical emergencies. Essential outlets like markets and pharmacies were closed.
Furthermore, the Steering Committee deplores the excessive use of force by members of Azerbaijan’s police force. On 8 and 9 June, dozens of officers raided an apartment building and detained 11 people. Given that previously residents had voiced their disapproval of a man’s arrest for lockdown violations in that area on 7 June, this action by the police force is suspected to be a ‘revenge-operation’. Karim Suleymani, part of the 11 people who were arrested, claims that more than 30 officers inflicted 5 hours of physical abuse on him during his detention.
In addition, Qiyas Ibrahimov was arrested on 9 June because he denounced the above-mentioned raid. He protested alone, standing on the roof of his apartment building and holding a banner which said “Don’t be silent, speak out”. He was released from custody on 10 June. However, charges of ‘petty hooliganism’ have not been dropped.
Therefore, the Steering Committee condemns the excessive use of force by the police. It appeals to the Azerbaijani government, especially to the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Vilayat Eyvazov, to ensure that the measures taken in answer to the COVID-19 pandemic are lawful, necessary and proportionate. Moreover, these measures must be in accordance with the country’s international human rights commitments which includes the obligations under the Eastern Partnership policy.