The brutal attack on the journalist Ilgar Nasibov, in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan, is an outrage and Azerbaijan’s authorities should ensure a prompt, effective and impartial investigation, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, People in Need, Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters without borders said today.
The Azerbaijani authorities should ensure that the investigation into the assault is prompt, effective and impartial, the organizations said. It should and examine as a potential motive that the attack was connected to Nasibov’s work as a journalist and human rights defender. The investigation should be capable of identifying and bringing to justice those responsible for this assault. The authorities should ensure that Nasibov gets immediate access to medical treatment as recommended by medical specialists.
On 21 August 2014, several unidentified people attacked Nasibov in the office of the Resource Centre for Development of NGOs and Democracy in Nakhichevan, according to the centre’s director and Nasibov’s wife, the Rafto Human Rights Laureate Malahat Nasibova. The attackers beat Nasibov unconscious and ransacked the office, Nasibov was seriously injured, including a concussion, broken cheekbones, nose, and ribs and loss of vision on one eye. After Nasibov received essential first aid at a local hospital, new threats caused Malahat Nasibova to move her husband elsewhere for security reasons.
International medical experts the groups consulted said Nasibov had suffered trauma to his face, chest and head and needs to be monitored closely to detect dangerous deterioration. The medical documentation and photos provided show that there is an urgent need for further intensive care from specialists who are not available in Nakhichevan.
Nasibova and her family have for years been subjected to physical and psychological pressure because of their human rights work. The Resource Centre is the only independent group in Nakhichevan, and is working on sensitive cases to restore justice to victims of human rights violations.
Among the cases the group has been involved with is the death of Turaj Zeynalov as a result of police torture. The Resource Centre has filed a complaint under the European Convention on Human Rights against Azerbaijan regarding Zeynalov’s treatment and death. In July, the European Court of Human Rights relayed the case to the Azerbaijani authorities.
Malahat Nasibova and Nasibov have received numerous, anonymous threats in the past two years. Turan News Agency, to which Nasibov has reported regularly, has also received threats from unknown people related to its coverage of Zeynalov’s death.
This violent attack coincides with a new wave of government repression against civil society, and takes place during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Leila Yunus, her husband Arif Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, and Rasul Jafarov, some of the country’s most prominent activists involved in raising international awareness about human rights violations in Azerbaijan, have recently been put in pre-trial detention on trumped-up charges. Several human rights activists face travel bans, or are in hiding or have left the country out of fear for their security.
Front Line Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19, People in Need and Reporters without borders call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to:
- Ensure a prompt, effective, impartial and transparent investigation of the brutal attack on Ilgar Nasibov capable of bringing those responsible to justice;
- Ensure that Ilgar Nasibov is given access to medical expertise, including unobstructed passage to seek medical attention in Baku or abroad;
- Stop the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and media activists who operate within the rights guaranteed under the international treaties to which Azerbaijan is a party;
- Secure that all human rights defenders are protected from violence and harassment, as Azerbaijan has undertaken to do as a party to multiple human rights treaties;
- Immediately and unconditionally release Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, and all other human rights defenders jailed on spurious charges, and drop any such charges held against them.