ARTICLE 19 has joined with other members of the Sport for Rights Coalition to write to David Cameron, highlighting concerns about the ongoing crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan. The letter comes in advance of the inaugural European Games that will take place from 12-28 June in Baku, Azerbaijan, and calls upon the Prime Minister to make his participation in the opening ceremony of the Games contingent on the Azerbaijani government releasing the dozens of jailed journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, currently imprisoned on politically-motivated charges.
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
1 June 2015
Dear Prime Minister,
As members of the Sport for Rights campaign, we are writing regarding the inaugural European Games that will take place from 12-28 June in Baku, Azerbaijan. This letter is in follow-up to the letter dated 30 April from a smaller group of our UK-based members.
Although the Azerbaijani regime spends a great deal of time and money to promote a positive image abroad, at home, it is engaged in a brutal human rights crackdown. This crackdown has particularly intensified over the past year, as the authorities have worked aggressively to silence all forms of criticism and dissent.
As a result, there are now dozens of political prisoners in the country, including eight journalists and five human rights defenders (listed in the appendix), jailed on spurious charges, with some facing prison sentences of up to 12 years.
Another human rights defender is trapped in the Swiss embassy in Baku, facing arrest if he leaves. These individuals have been targeted for their work defending the rights of others and telling the truth about the situation in their country.
In light of these serious problems, we are asking you to make your participation in the opening ceremony of the Games contingent on the release of the jailed journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Similarly, we ask that you do not send a high-level government delegation to the Games unless these
individuals are released. Further, we urge you to make an immediate public statement condemning the ongoing human rights crackdown in the country and calling for the release of the jailed journalists and human rights defenders.
We want to be clear that we are not calling for a public boycott of the Games. We are simply asking you to take this opportunity to impact positive, democratic change, and to help our Azerbaijani colleagues, in the spirit of British values.
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19
Mike Harris, Director, 89up
Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders
Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists
Maran Turner, Executive Director, Freedom Now
Danuta Przywara, Chair of the Board, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Karim Lahidji, President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Jesper Højberg, Executive Director, International Media Support
Simon Papuashvili, Project Coordinator, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Karin Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Program, PEN American Centre
Emma Hughes, Strategy Director, Platform
Joanna Furmaga, Chair, Polish Green Network
Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Yulia Slutskaya, Director, Solidarity with Belarus Information Office