International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) has submitted a report for the UN’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Azerbaijan, which will take place in May 2018. The report is based on information from Azerbaijani partners, who for security reasons are not mentioned as co-contributors, and focuses on the continued and serious deterioration of the civil society environment seen in Azerbaijan since the country was last scrutinized under the UPR in 2013. It documents current alarming trends regarding freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including repressive legislation and policies targeting NGOs, quelling of peaceful protests, measures taken to intimidate and silence independent and opposition media and the relentless crackdown on human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, bloggers and other critical voices. This crackdown has involved systematic abuse of the criminal justice system, and while some of those arrested have been released as a result of international pressure, many others remain behind bars and new arrests have been carried out, resulting in what Azerbaijani human rights defenders call a “revolving door” policy. Other outspoken individuals are subjected to travel bans or have been forced into exile.
The UPR is a state peer review mechanism covering all UN member states that takes places under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council. Next year it will be the third time that Azerbaijan is examined under this procedure. Following the last UPR in 2013, its government received 162 recommendations, a great part of which concerned the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.