Azerbaijan should ease restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
concern. The authorities should release all persons who are in detention because of their opinions and improve legislation and practice on
freedom of expression and assembly," Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights said in regard to a report
released today on his visit to Azerbaijan carried out from 22 to 24 May 2013.
Recommending the full decriminalisation of defamation, the Commissioner regrets that the President of Azerbaijan signed
amendments in June aimed at facilitating the application of defamation provisions to online expression. Another concern relates to the
excessive damages which are sometimes awarded in civil defamation cases. "The authorities should finalise the reform of the defamation
legislation in order to repeal imprisonment and allow only proportionate fines."
The Commissioner further underscores the need to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the courts, which appear to
be particularly severe in judging journalists and other media professionals.
The Commissioner is also concerned by recent restrictions to the exercise of fundamental freedoms online. "A wave of arrests
and prosecutions, as well as widespread surveillance, has targeted social media users. These practices must cease immediately and the
Internet must remain a free arena for public expression."
Concerns remain about the limitations imposed on freedom of assembly, notably the excessive use of force by law enforcement
officials to disperse demonstrations and the requirement of authorisation to hold public gatherings. "The authorities should refrain from
using the force against peaceful demonstrators and should seek to facilitate and protect public assemblies at the organisers' preferred
location." The Commissioner is also worried about the recent harshening of the fines and the use of administrative detention against
those who organise or participate in "unauthorised" public gatherings and urges the authorities to ensure that no disproportionate
sanction, which would undermine the fundamental right to peaceful assembly, is imposed.
A further reason of deep concern are the additional restrictions imposed on NGOs by recent amendments, as well as the tone of
the political discourse which often stigmatises NGOs, in particular those receiving funds from abroad. "The authorities must fully respect
the right to freedom of association, which is crucial for a healthy democracy. Alleviating the registration requirements and making the
whole process, as well as the functioning of NGOs, less bureaucratic is a first necessary step."
Lastly, the Commissioner expresses concerns about the effective enjoyment of the right to property in Azerbaijan.
"Expropriations and demolitions should be carried out in a lawful and transparent manner. The authorities should provide fair market
value compensations and allow access to an effective national remedy for those who would like to impugn the decisions against their
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|Publication:||ArmInfo - Business Bulletin|
|Date:||Aug 6, 2013|
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