Ref. DC 101(2016)
Azerbaijan: hate speech, precarious situation of civil society, violence against LGBT are issues of high concern, says Council of Europe’s Anti-racism Commission
Strasbourg, 07.06.2016 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its new report on Azerbaijan. While progress was achieved in areas such as migration legislation and living conditions of historical minorities, other issues give rise to concern, such as the continued use of hate speech, a crackdown on independent civil society and media, prejudice against LGBT people and discrimination against religious minorities.
On the background of a general attitude of openness towards most historical minorities in Azerbaijan, ECRI welcomes that the authorities have improved their living conditions by decentralising institutions and by constructing infrastructure such as schools and roads to remote villages. In 2014, the Baku International Multiculturalism centre was set up and a Migration Code was adopted.
At the same time, ECRI expresses concern about a wide ranging crack-down on independent civil society and media. As a result, vulnerable groups can no longer turn to NGOs for assistance in cases of racism, hate speech and discrimination.
Even though no violent hate crime based on ethnic affiliation has been registered in Azerbaijan during the last five years, political leaders, educational institutions and media have continued spreading hate speech. The pardon, release and promotion in 2012 of Ramil Safarov, who had been sentenced in Budapest to life imprisonment for the murder of an Armenian army officer, contributes to a sense of impunity for the perpetrators of racist crime. The report recommends that authorities put an end to the constant, mediatised use of hate speech, and rather promote mutual understanding and confidence.
Azerbaijan has not enacted comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and there is no institution responsible for preventing and combating racism and discrimination in the private sector. ECRI also deplores a considerable number of violent attacks against LGBT persons, many committed by family members. The Law on Freedom of Religious Belief is not in line with international standards. Various religious minorities have been subject to harsh restrictions and discrimination, including police raids, detention, closure of places of worship, the ban on praying outside mosques, censorship of religious literature and heavy penalties. In practice, there are no alternatives to military service in Azerbaijan.
In its report, the Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission addresses several recommendations to the Azerbaijani authorities. The following two recommendations are to be implemented on a priority basis:
· Create conditions under which a diverse and independent civil society can develop;
· Fulfil the promise given when acceding to the Council of Europe to enact legislation on alternatives to military service.
As an interim follow-up, ECRI will assess the priority implementation of these two recommendations whithin two years.
ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.
For more information on ECRI: www.coe.int/ecri
Contact : Can Fişek, Spokesperson/Media officer, tel. +33 3 88 41 30 41