Strasbourg/04.03.20/Turan: Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic sent a letter to Interior Minister Vilayat Eyvazov expressing concern over police violence against peaceful gatherings and the dispersal of protesters during recent protests in Baku. The Commissioner is concerned, in particular, about the prohibition of all forms of peaceful protest in central Baku,
Administrative arrests and fines, ill-treatment of journalists covering protests. Peaceful demonstrators should not be sanctioned for being present and actively participating in the demonstration, and authorities should investigate injuries to demonstrators and journalists.
“I also became aware that several protesters were arrested before the planned demonstration and taken to remote places by car or bus, sometimes several hundred kilometers from Baku, which did not allow them to take part in the protest. In addition, journalists covering the protests were reportedly abused by law enforcement officials during the crackdown on protests.”
“I am concerned that the latest restrictions imposed by the authorities constitute disproportionate interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly in Azerbaijan. I want to emphasize that, in accordance with the OSCE / ODIHR Guide to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, together with the Venice Commission, prior notification is required only when we must enable the state to create conditions for freedom of assembly and the protection of public order. ”
“It is also important to ensure that police officers acting as part of the demonstrations receive specialized training on the proportional use of force,” Miyatovic said in a message.
In a response letter, Vilayat Eyvazov said that a group of people held protests in front of the CEC, “where there is heavy traffic and high population density.”
The organizers were invited to the police and they were told that their actions were illegal. Despite this, on February 16, 120 people gathered in front of the CEC, trying to hold an “illegal rally, violating the rights of citizens to rest and normal traffic”.
“Taking into account the continuous complaints to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of citizens living in this zone, police forces were sent to the place. Despite the demands to stop the illegal action, its organizers ignored these calls. ” Taking into account this, the police detained the protesters, who were distinguished by “special aggressiveness,” Eyvazov writes.
Regarding the facts of violence against journalists, the Minister expresses sincere surprise, saying “there was no violence against journalists at all, on the contrary, some journalists deliberately prevented the police from performing their functions,” Ayvazov writes.
Further, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs claims that the Azerbaijani authorities act within the framework of the Law on Freedom of Assembly, and the legislation of Azerbaijan is “much more liberal and humane than the laws of several European countries.”