Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum urgently call for unconditional release of Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli
May 3, 2024

Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum urgently call for unconditional release of Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli

The co-chairs of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) have strongly condemned the detention of Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli and urgently called for his immediate and unconditional release. 

Anar Mammadli, prominent human rights defender and member of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, was arrested on 29 April in Baku. According to the EaP CSF statement, he was abducted on the street by policemen wearing civilian attire and is now under pre-trial arrest for “smuggling by a group” under article 206.3.2 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code. Mammadli has denied all accusations as unlawful and politically motivated.

The arrest took place less than a week after the European Parliament’s urgent resolution on ‘Azerbaijan, notably the repression of civil society and the cases of Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu and Ilhamiz  Guliyev’.

“His abduction and detention are part of an ongoing trend of repression against independent civil society and media that has intensified over the past year and led to the detention, on bogus charges, of nearly 300 activists, journalists and political opposition figures, including several members of the EaP CSF Azerbaijani National Platform, namely Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, Aziz Orujov, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Hafiz Babaly, and, now, Anar Mammadli,” said Ana Otilia Nutu and Irina Suky, EaP CSF Steering Committee Co-Chairs.

They added that as a host country of the UN Climate Change Conference COP29, Azerbaijan has the obligation to uphold human rights and provide concrete assurances that civil society, both local and international, is free to attend COP29 without fear of harassment and legal action. 

“To stay credible on the global stage, Azerbaijani authorities must undertake genuine human rights reforms without delay. The first step is to free all political prisoners and cease any persecution against them now,” Ana Otilia Nutu and Irina Sukhy said.

Anar Mammadli is the chairman of the independent Centre for Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies (EMDS), an organisation that has been carrying out independent election monitoring in Azerbaijan since 2001, including independent observations of the recent snap presidential elections on 7 February 2024 for which it reported widespread shortcomings. 

A prominent human rights defender and an outspoken critic of Ilham Aliyev’s regime, Anar Mammadli has already served two and a half years in prison after unlawfully being detained in 2013, shortly after the October 2013 presidential elections for which EMDS reported numerous irregularities. Recognised globally as a political prisoner, in 2014, Anar Mammadli was awarded in absentia the Vaclav Havel Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, for “his commitment in promoting democratic institutions and civil and political rights”. In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Azerbaijan had violated several human rights enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights in Mammadli’s case.

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