12 November 2014
Oslo – The dream of a Europe without political prisoners and the grim reality of Azerbaijan
Bjorn Engesland with relatives of the winners of the Sakharov Freedom Award. Photo NHC
Bjorn Engesland with relatives of the winners of the Sakharov Freedom Award. Photo NHC

ESI's Gerald Knaus participated in the awarding ceremony of the Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 organized by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in Oslo. This year's prize was awarded to political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The authorities in oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan have for years brutally silenced their critics by accusing them of fictive crimes and then sentencing them to lengthy prison terms. More than 90 political prisoners have been identified in the country by local human rights activists, by applying the Council of Europe's criteria. Among these prisoners, we find some of the most knowledgeable, experienced and vocal human rights defenders, journalists, youth activists and opposition politicians. Civil society in Azerbaijan is being crushed.

On 12 September Gerald spoke at a public seminar discussing the grim facts of imprisonment on political grounds in Azerbaijan, a vision for a Europe without political prisoners and possible responses.

Welcome. Bjørn Engesland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

The end of shame? Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe and the capture of Europe.  Gerald Knaus, Director of the European Stability Initiative, Germany. Author of 'Caviar Diplomacy', about the activities of the Council of Europe Parliamentary assembly (PACE).

The Ilham Aliyev regime and the powers that made it possible. Leyla Alieva, director of the National and International Studies Center, Georgia/Azerbaijan.

Soviet Union - Council of Europe - Soviet Union 2.0 - all in one life Emin Milli, editor Maydan TV (in exile) served a 2.5 years sentence for blog posts critical of the government of Azerbaijan.

Panel discussion: Why are we so inefficient in countering the wave of arrests in Azerbaijan and what can be done? 

  • Geir Jørgen Bekkevold, Norwegian MP (KrF), head of OSCE/PA delegation
  • Steinar Gil, Former Norwegian Ambassador to Azerbaijan
  • Vugar Gojayev, Expert
  • Berit Lindeman, Head of information, Norwegian Helsinki Committee (moderator)

Video presentations from the event by
Bjørn Engesland, Gerald Knaus, Leyla Alieva, and Emin Milli

Gerald Knaus. Video NHC
Belarus Dissident Ales Bialiatski. Photo NHC
Belarus Dissident Ales Bialiatski. Photo NHC
Audience. Photo NHC
Audience. Photo NHC
"No More Business As Usual for Azerbaijan". Video: Civic Solidarity
About us
Photo credits
Alan Grant is an Irish photographer who travelled extensively in the Balkans and other countries and regions of the world. Thanks to him, ESI is able to show fascinating pictures of the Balkans: the facades of Tirana, the painted mosques of Travnik, the fabulous old houses of Plovdiv and the spectacular blue of water - dark in the Bay of Kotor, emerald in the river valleys of Bosnia, deep blue in Ohrid, twinkling in the Aegean Sea and on the Bosporus.

You can find out more about Alan Grant on his websites:
Jonathan Lewis lives between London and Istanbul. He moved to London and spent many years studying photography and now specialises in photojournalism, documentary photography and commercial work for a wide variety of private and commercial clients in the UK, Europe and Turkey. His work has appeared in a number of magazines and publications and is used on the ESI website as well.

You can find out more about Jonathan Lewis on his website www.jonathanlewisphoto.com