Azerbaijan: Voices Silenced as European Games distract from Rights Abuses

Azerbaijan: Voices Silenced as European Games distract from Rights Abuses - Protection

Refugee children playing football during a school lunch break.

 ARTICLE 19 condemns Azerbaijan’s decision to bar international human rights organisations and media outlets – including the UK-based newspaper The Guardian – entry into the country to cover the 2015 European Games, due to start in the capital Baku tomorrow.

ARTICLE 19 has joined with other IPGA members to support the Sport for Rights campaign, in the lead up to the European Games to highlight the severe crackdown on civil society that has taken place in Azerbaijan over in the year.

ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director stated that “Azerbaijan’s banning of international human rights organisations and media outlets from reporting on the European Games demonstrates the Government’s intention to use the event as a glossy façade, to cover its systemic erosion of the basic freedoms of its people.

There are currently more than 80 Azerbaijani political prisoners including journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and activists, while others have been forced into hiding or exile. Now international voices are being denied entry into the country, preventing abuses being further highlighted, and constituting a clear and unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.

In the run up to the Games, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Platform London and The Guardian staff have all been prevented from entering Azerbaijan. These are not the actions of a country upholding its international commitments to human rights, nor those outlined in the Olympic Charter. The European Olympic Committee insists that it received assurances from the Azerbaijani authorities that they would uphold the Charter – including guarantees that all accredited media in Baku would have the freedom to report on the games. This is clearly not the case.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Olympic Committees to review their engagement with Azerbaijan – and make a public call for the release of the political prisoners, many of whom were arrested to prevent them from speaking out in the lead up to the Games.”

Tomorrow, 12 June, at 10am, ARTICLE 19 is joining with Sport for Rights, Amnesty International UK, Index on Censorship and Platform to hold a demonstration outside the Azerbaijan Embassy calling for an end to the ongoing human rights crackdown in Azerbaijan, and the release of the country’s jailed journalists and human rights defenders.

For more details, see the event Facebook page –