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US Department of State 2011 Human Rights Reports: Azerbaijan

2011 Human Rights Reports: Azerbaijan

May 24, 2012


The Azerbaijan constitution provides for a republic with a presidential form of government. Legislative authority is vested in the Milli Mejlis (parliament). In practice the president dominated the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. November 2010 Milli Mejlis elections did not meet a number of key standards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for democratic elections. Although there were more than 50 political parties, the president’s party, the Yeni Azerbaijan Party, dominated the political system. Ethnic Armenian separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the country and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories. The government did not exercise any control over developments in those territories. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.

The most significant human rights problem during the year was the restriction of freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. For example, throughout the year, but especially in the spring, several political protests calling for democratic reform and the government’s resignation were forcefully dispersed, and 15 protesters were sentenced to 18 months to three years in jail for their participation in such protests. Applications to hold protests in Baku were repeatedly denied throughout the year. A second significant human rights problem involved the fairness of the administration of justice due to reports of strong executive branch influence over the judiciary, lack of due process, politically motivated imprisonments, measures against independent lawyers, and reports of torture and abuse in police or military custody that resulted in at least nine deaths. A third major problem area was the violation of citizens’ property rights, including forced evictions and demolitions on dubious eminent domain grounds, and inadequate compensation.

Other human rights problems reported during the year included generally harsh prison conditions that in some cases were life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of individuals considered by the government to be political opponents, and lengthy pretrial detention continued. The government continued to imprison persons for political reasons, although authorities released some of these individuals during the year. The government continued to restrict the religious freedom of some unregistered Muslim and Christian groups. Pervasive corruption, including in the judiciary and law enforcement organizations, continued. Cases of violence against women were also reported. Trafficking in persons remained a problem.

The government failed to take steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed human rights abuses. Impunity remained a problem.

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