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Human rights impact assessment of the state response to COVID-19 in Azerbaijan
Human rights impact assessment of the state response to COVID-19 in Azerbaijan

A new report, prepared by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Baku Human Rights Club (BHRC), examines the measures taken by Azerbaijan’s government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of these measures  on the protection of human rights in Azerbaijan, including of those most vulnerable during the pandemic.

The report has been prepared as part of an initiative of IPHR and its partners to monitor and document the human rights situation during the Covid-19 pandemic in  countries of the former Soviet Union. Other country reports can be accessed here.

The report focuses on the vast spectrum of human rights issues affected by the state’s handling of the pandemic. These include violations of the right to liberty; police violence against ordinary citizens; violations of fair trial guarantees; growing concerns about violations of the right to privacy; and restrictions on the freedoms of expression and assembly. The report also assesses the impact of the government’s Covid-19 response on health care and health workers in the country; property and housing rights; the right to education; and other social and economic rights; as well as on the situation of the most vulnerable groups, such as victims of domestic violence, the LGBTI community, prisoners, elderly people, and ethnic minority groups.

Download the report here.


The online presentation of the report will take place on Monday, 3 August at 14:30 Brussels/13:30 London/16:30 Baku time on IPHR Facebook

Presenters:

Rasul Jafarov, a prominent activist and director of the Baku Human Rights Club (BHRC), and Ramute Remezaite, legal consultant at the European Human Rights Advocacy Center (EHRAC).

Moderator: Maryna Zastavna, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)


Background

The first COVID-19 case in Azerbaijan was diagnosed on 28 February 2020. As of 27 July 2020, over 30.000 COVID-19 cases had been confirmed, with 417 deaths, more than 22.000 recoveries, and 6949 active cases. The Government, having adopted a ‘special quarantine regime’ on 24 March 2020, severely restricted the freedom of movement of residents. The application of an obligatory SMS approval system for residents wishing to leave their homes also gave rise to concerns about potential privacy violations. To manage the COVID-19 outbreak, at different periods of time, the Government also temporarily imposed a ‘tightened quarantine regime’, which prohibited  residents of major cities  from leaving their homes  unless there was an ‘immediate danger to life and health’.

Special laws establishing administrative and criminal liability for violations of quarantine rules and for spreading allegedly false information causing threat to human life have been adopted. Concerns have been raised by human rights groups about the arbitrary and abusive application of these provisions against individuals who criticise the authorities, including in relation to their handling of the public health crisis. A number of journalists reporting on the Covid-19 crisis have been subjected to administrative detention, which has had a strong chilling effect on freedom of expression and media freedom.

This period in Azerbaijan has been marked by growing persecution of the political opposition, in particular following accusations made by the President. In a speech held on 19 March 2020, the President accused the opposition of being  a ‘fifth column’ and of  spreading rumors and provocations, and said that because of this it ‘will be necessary’ to isolate its members. On 15 July 2020, after a rally held in Baku on the recent military escalations with Armenia  led to a brief break-in to the parliament building by a small group of protesters, the President again accused the opposition of allegedly carrying out provocative actions aimed at disrupting public order. Both speeches were followed by multiple arrests of political opposition members, as well as  by criminal charges against a number of such members.

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