11 March 2011, 23:00

Statement on the Closing of the Human Rights House Azerbaijan

On 10 March 2011, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan ordered the Human Rights House Azerbaijan, partner of the international Human Rights House Network, to cease all activities immediately. According to the Ministry of Justice, in the future the Human Rights House Azerbaijan will be allowed to carry out activities only upon prior agreement with the State. The Human Rights House Network believes this measure is part of the escalated repression of the civil society in the last few weeks, in connection with the calls for pro-democracy demonstrations in March 2011.

The Human Rights House Azerbaijan was registered in 2007 as an international branch of the Human Rights House Foundation. In 2009 a new law on non-governmental organisations was amended, stating that international organisations have to carry out their activities after agreement about those activities with the State. No official warnings have been issued nor any discontent communicated with regards to the timely and regular reporting by the Human Rights House Azerbaijan to the authorities.

The Human Rights House Azerbaijan has been under government scrutiny since its establishment, and in the last years in particular. On 10 February 2011, police inspection was conducted in the House. Police officers threatened the Human Rights House Azerbaijan with eviction and requested the manager to inform police in advance about all gatherings at the House as well as provide the list of participants. Prior to this, the Human Rights House Azerbaijan organised a side-event on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in Strasbourg parallel to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in January 2011. The side-event was held in partnership with Human Rights Watch and several Azerbaijani human rights organisations. In February 2011 the Speaker of Azerbaijan's Parliament criticised the NGO activities at the Council of Europe and called for "steps to be taken" against human rights NGOs that criticise the government in international inter-governmental institutions. In 2009 and 2010 the Human Rights House Azerbaijan organised several joint Azerbaijani NGO reports to the UN Human Rights Council and UN treaty bodies. In April 2010 police inspections were carried out at the House.

The Human Rights House Azerbaijan serves as an independent meeting place, a resource centre, and a coordinator for human rights organisations. In 2010, 6000 human rights defenders, including youth activists, independent journalists, and lawyers, used the House as such, the Human Rights House Azerbaijan was one of the few open meeting places in Baku. It has become a focal point for promotion and protection of human rights in Azerbaijan.

The undersigned members and partners of the Human Rights House Network believe that the closing down of the Human Rights House Azerbaijan is politically motivated, violating the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and the right to be a human rights defender in Azerbaijan.

We condemn the closing of the Human Rights House Azerbaijan and its activities and strongly call upon the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan to protect human rights defenders and their organizations, and to ensure the right of every citizen to express his/her opinion, to associate, to assemble and be a human rights defender.

11 March 2011

Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania

Russian Research Centre for Human Rights (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Human Rights Network Group
- Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia
- Moscow Centre for Prison Reform
- Moscow Helsinki Group
- Mother's Right Foundation
- Non-violence International
- Right of the Child
- Right to Live and have Civil Dignity
- Social Partnership Foundation
- Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia

Youth Human Rights Movement (the Russian Federation)

Human Rights House Baku (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Association for the Protection of Women's Rights after D. Aliyeva (APWR)
- Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
- Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan (AHRC)
- Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS)
- Legal Education Society
- Media Rights Institute
- Society for Humanitarian Research
- Women's Association for Rational Development (WARD)

Human Rights House Tbilisi (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Article 42 of the Constitution
- The Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies (CAUCASIA)
- The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)
- The Human Rights Centre (HRIDC)
- Union 'Saphari' - Family Without Violence

Armenian Helsinki Association (Armenia)

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Human Rights House Sarajevo (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Association of Female Citizens "Renaissance"
- Foundation CURE
- Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Regional Co-ordinator for Youth Groups
- Serb Civic Council - Movement for Equality - The Council of the Sarajevo Canton
- Woman and Society Centre

Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- APEO/UPIM - Association for Promotion of Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities
- B.a.B.e.
- CMS - Centre for Peace Studies
- Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past
- GOLJP - Civic Committee for Human Rights
- Svitanje  - Association for Protection and Promotion of Mental Health

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)

Human Rights House Oslo (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Health and Human Rights Info
- Human Rights House Foundation
- Norwegian Burma Committee
- Norwegian Helsinki Committee

The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights (Norway)

Centre for Civil and Political Rights (Switzerland)

Free Word Centre:
- Article 19


About the Human Rights House Network (www.humanrightshouse.org)
The Human Rights House Network is a forum of cooperation between established and emerging Human Rights Houses, uniting 70 NGOs in 15 countries in Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, East and Horn of Africa, and Western Europe. HRHN's aim is to protect, strengthen and support human rights defenders and their organizations. The Human Rights House Foundation, based in Oslo (Norway) and Geneva (Switzerland), is the secretariat of the Human Rights House Network.

For more information regarding the statement, please contact:
Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager Eastern Europe and Caucasus, Human Rights House Foundation, mobile: +4799743907, e-mail: ane.bonde@humanrightshouse.org
Maria Dahle, Executive Director, Human Rights House Foundation, mobile +4792861771, e-mail: maria.dahle@humanrightshouse.org

Source: Human Rights House Foundation

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