Dunja Mijatović, Human Rights Commissioner at the Council of Europe.

Source: Meydan TV

Caption: Dunja Mijatović, Human Rights Commissioner at the Council of Europe.

Mijatović urges Azerbaijani authorities to respect freedoms

The European rights watchdog urged Baku to respect freedom of expression, improve access to lawyers and uphold the rights of internally displaced persons (IDP).

On 11 December, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, released a report on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, the latest development over lawyers and the rights of IDPs.

Mijatović called on Azerbaijani authorities to release jailed journalists and social media activists in the country. According to her, no progress has been made on the protection of freedom of expression, and that media representatives are consistently deprived of their liberty because of their criticism of the authorities.

She also mentioned the travel bans imposed on journalists, lawyers, political activists and human rights defenders underlining that the authorities must avoid imposing travel bans and not restrict the right to movement. She also recommended to level up internet freedom in line with European standards.

Mijatović said another problem was an acute shortage of lawyers, particularly in regions outside the capital Baku, which prevented many people's access to legal assistance.

“The authorities should adopt a law on legal aid in line with Council of Europe standards and ensure that all persons effectively enjoy the right to legal assistance,” said Mijatovic, who visited Azerbaijan on 8-12 July.

The Commissioner also urges the authorities to help people displaced as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. She reiterates the importance of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, so that “the people who wish to return may do so on a voluntary basis, in safety and dignity. ”

Azerbaijani government rejected the criticism, saying it contained a number of inaccuracies that failed to reflect the “genuine situation of human rights in Azerbaijan”.

Western governments courted Azerbaijan as an alternative energy supplier to Russia; however rights groups have criticized Baku, holding Aliyev accountable for the crackdown in the country. Baku denies these allegations.

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