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Helsinki Commission Briefing to Review State of Fundamental Freedoms in Azerbaijan

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing:

DEMOCRACY DEFERRED:
THE STATE OF ELECTIONS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS IN AZERBAIJAN

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
10:30 a.m.
Capitol Visitor Center
Room SVC 215

Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission

After amending the constitution to extend the length of a presidential term and abolish term limits altogether, Azerbaijan’s ruler since 2003, Ilham Aliyev, recently prevailed in elections that secured his position until 2025. International election observers described this vote as “lack[ing] genuine competition” given the country’s “restrictive political environment and…legal framework that curtails fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The presidential election took place after a year of growing concern over the state of fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan. In March 2017, the government blocked nearly all remaining major sources of independent news; it continues to harass and detain independent journalists. That same month, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative suspended Azerbaijan’s membership over the government’s onerous regulation of civil society organizations. In December 2017, the Council of Europe began exploring unprecedented punitive measures against Azerbaijan for flouting a European Court of Human Rights ruling ordering the release of former presidential candidate Ilgar Mammadov, jailed since 2013.

As Azerbaijan approaches 100 years of independence in May, the Helsinki Commission will examine these recent developments and the country’s implementation of its freely undertaken human rights and democracy commitments.

The following panelists are scheduled to participate:

  • Audrey L. Altstadt, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts – Amherst
  • Emin Milli, Director, Meydan TV
  • Maran Turner, Executive Director, Freedom Now

Additional panelists may be added.

In September 2017, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) introduced H.Res.537 calling on the U.S. Government to prioritize democracy and human rights in its engagement with Baku and examine the applicability of targeted sanctions against the most egregious violators of basic rights.

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