Standing Up for European Values
Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and others
Winners of the Norwegian Sakharov Prize 2014
Winner of the Council of Europe's Vaclav Havel Prize 2014
Finalist of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize 2014
Rasul's and Leyla's list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, made based on the Council of Europe definition of "political prisoner": www.esiweb.org/thelist
Letter of support for the nomination of Leyla Yunus for the European Parliament Sakharov Prize 2014 by
English version of the letter / Russian version of the letter
(in 2009 the Sakharov prize for human rights was awarded to Russian activists Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Ludmila Alekseeva
on behalf of Memorial and all other Russian human rights organizations)
"As members of the last generation of dissidents in the Soviet Union and followers of Andrei Sakharov, we wish to support our colleagues in Azerbaijan who are unfortunately suffering for the brave stand they are taking to defend human rights in their country. By receiving the award, Leyla would also be a worthy successor to Memorial which was awarded the prize in 2009.
"Esteemed members of the European Parliament! Leyla Yunus, as well as her husband Arif, has worked for many years to defend human rights, develop democracy and protect ethnic minorities from discrimination. She would be a most worthy recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Awarding her the prize would also help protect her, Arif and the other 96 recorded political prisoners in Azerbaijan from further persecution and draw attention to the disgraceful human rights situation in a country that is a member of the Council of Europe. The award could make a positive impact on the overall situation in Azerbaijan before it becomes too late for many people."
Lyudmila Alekseeva – Svetlana Gannushkina – Sergei Kovalyov – Oleg Orlov
Thomas de Waal: The Responsibility of a Politician: Leyla Yunus and the Heirs of Andrei Sakharov (11 October 2014)
Rumeli Observer: What the 2014 Havel Prize says about the Council of Europe – and what should happen now (29 September 2014)
Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe, and therefore bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. In May 2014, Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of the organisation. However, despite this, the Azerbaijani authorities have recently unleashed an unprecedented wave of repression, targeting opposition politicians, journalists, civil society representatives, and human rights defenders.
Today, human rights activists such as Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and Anar Mammadli stand for the many who are defending basic human rights and European values in Azerbaijan and who are subject to repression and imprisonment for doing so.
Recently, three of them played a leading role in producing a comprehensive list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, which included 98 names. This list exposed the discrepancy between human rights obligations and the systematic violation of these commitments occurring in Azerbaijan today. Then, even before an English translation of the list could be published, all three were arrested themselves. Anar Mammadli was already in prison then. He had been advising the Council of Europe rapporteur on political prisoners in 2012.
THE LIST – 98 political prisoners in Azerbaijan – August 2014
Cases studied by the Working Group led by Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov
The targeting of those who document human rights violations in Azerbaijan is reminiscent of the fate of previous generations of dissidents and human rights defenders in autocratic regimes. It conjures memories of the signatories of Charter 77, the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted or the Polish Workers Defence Committee in communist Central Europe. Back in the 1970s the playwright and activist Vaclav Havel wrote:
"We never decided that we would go to jail. In fact, we never decided to become dissidents... we simply went ahead and did certain things that we felt we ought to do, and that seemed to us decent to do, nothing more nor less."
Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and Anar Mammadli represent today's generation of European human rights defenders. They are continuing a noble tradition of doing "what is decent," and speaking out for the rights of others. By "living in truth," they defend the common values on which a Europe respectful of rights must be built. And for this they are now paying a very high personal price. It is in the common interest of d emocrats across Europe to preserve respect for human rights by drawing urgent attention to the work and plight of Azerbaijan's imprisoned human rights defenders.
By awarding all of Azerbaijan's political prisoners the Norwegian Sakharov Prize 2014, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has sent a strong signal to a region vital to Europe, at a moment when courageous human rights defenders are needed more than ever. By awarding Anar Mammadli the Havel Prize 2014, the selection panel has sent a strong signal to those who defend the legacy of Havel today at great risk.
Leyla Yunus – Rasul Jafarov – Intigam Aliyev – Anar Mammadli
- Leyla Yunus, imprisoned since 30 July 2014
- Rasul Jafarov, imprisoned since 2 August 2014
- Intigam Aliyev, imprisoned since 8 August 2014
- Anar Mammadli, imprisoned since 16 December 2013
How the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize 2014 is awarded
In September 2014, the European Parliament started the process of choosing this year's recipient of its annual Sakharov Prize for Human Rights. The Sakharov Prize honours "exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression."
This process involves several stages until a final winner is chosen on 16 October 2014.
An informal coalition of NGOs, including ESI, as well as members of the European Parliament worked towards the nomination of Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev for the Sakharov Prize 2014.
By the deadline for nomiantions of noon on Thursday, 18 September 2014, 27 MEPs had signed for a nomination of the three Azerbaijanis. In addition the political group of Greens/European Free Alliance put forward Leyla Yunus as their nomination, on behalf of all other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Six other nominees were also chosen.
In a joint vote by the European Parliament's Committees on Foreign Affairs (AFET, 71 members) and Development (DEVE, 28 members) on 7 October 2014, three finalists were selected through secret ballot. These were Leyla Yunus, Euromaidan and Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist treating rape victims.
The shortlist of three candidates decided by AFET and DEVE has been forwarded to the European Parliament's "Conference of Presidents".
This body is made up of the President of the Parliament Martin Schulz (a German Social-Democrat); the chairpersons of each of the seven political groups; and a representative of the "non-attached" MEPs, those that belong to no political group. (Their email addresses can be found here.)
On 16 October 2014, they will choose the winner of the Sakharov Award 2014. Unless they reach a consensus, this will be done by secret ballot.
The votes of the chairpersons of the political groups are weighted proportionally to the size of the political group they represent. The President and the representative of the non-attached MEPs do not vote.
The winner will be introduced to AFET and DEVE on 24 November 2014 and will receive the prize during an award ceremony on 26 November 2014.
For more information on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in summer 2014 look here:
- ESI Azerbaijan website
- ESI Briefing: The jails of Azerbaijan – A chronology of recent repression by the chairman of the Council of Europe (14 May to 25 August 2014)
- ESI newsletter: Moscow Appeal – The case for Leyla Yunus (2 October 2014)
- Letter of support for the nomination of Leyla Yunus for the European Parliament Sakharov Prize 2014 by Lyudmila Alekseeva, Svetlana Gannushkina, Sergei Kovalyov, and Oleg Orlov (winners of the Sakharov Prize 2009)
- Rumeli Observer: What the 2014 Havel Prize says about the Council of Europe – and what should happen now (29 September 2014)
- ESI newsletter: Andrei Sakharov and the defence of the unjustly persecuted (23 September 2014)
- ESI newsletter: The LIST and arrests in Baku – Sakharov prize 2014 – Black Sea in Budapest – Capacity building in Kosovo (4 September 2014)
- ESI newsletter: Patriarchy in Kosovo – Political Prisoners in Berlin – Godot in Skopje (6 June 2014)
- ESI conference in Berlin on 2/3 June: "Towards a Europe without political prisoners"
- Video clips from the conference: Emin Milli, Khadija Ismayilova, Bill Browder, and others
- Council of Europe secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland publishes op-ed: "Council of Europe is not blind to Azerbaijan's rights violations" (22 May 2014)
- ESI op-ed on Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung: Politische Gefangene? Hier doch nicht! – (Political Prisoners? Certainly not here!) (18 May 2014)
- ESI newsletter: Oslo abuse debate – Mr Jagland goes to Baku – June 2 Berlin event – a tradition of dissent (19 May 2014)
- ESI at conference in Oslo: Safeguarding international institutions against authoritarian abuse (13 May 2014)
- ESI newsletter: The return of the caveman – 10 years enlargement – new ESI fellows scheme (30 April 2014)
- ESI newsletter: Hunger strike, European values and an Open Letter (23 April 2014)
- Media reactions
Azerbaijan human rights violations in summer 2014
Letters and Statements (PDF)
US Department of State – Statement regarding criminal charges against Leyla Yunus: "Criminal Charges Against Institute for Peace and Democracy Director Leyla Yunus in Azerbaijan."
Frontline Defenders – Letter to President Ilham Aliyev, Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov and Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov: "Azerbaijan – Detention of human rights defenders Ms Leyla Yunus and Mr Arif Yunus and travel ban ordered against Mr. Rasul Jafarov."
UK Foreign Office – Statement regarding criminal charges against Leyla Yunus: "FCO concerned at detention of Azerbaijani peace activist Leyla Yunus."
Christoph Strässer, German Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid – Statement on the indictment of Leyla Yunus: "Human Rights Commissioner on the indictment of Azerbaijani human rights activist."
Civic Solidarity – Letter calling for the release of Rasul Jafarov (sign by 27 NGOs): "Azerbaijan: Freedom to Rasul Jafarov!"
PACE Rapporteur Mailis Reps – Public statement denouncing the arrest of Leyla Yunus: "PACE rapporteur denounces arrest of Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus on treason charges."
Women Peacemakers Program – Call for action against the arrest of Leyla Yunus: "Call for Action: Women Peace Activist Azerbaijan Arrested."
Human Rights House – Op-Ed about the recent crackdown on human rights activists: "Azerbaijan authorities have decided: 'No critical voice shall be heard.'"
Human Rights Houses – Joint letter to President Ilham Aliyev (signed by 64 NGOs): "Human Rights House Network Letter to President Aliyev."
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety – Condemnation of the arrest of Rasul Jafarov: "Fear of repression looms as another human rights defender is detained in Azerbaijan."
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Statement against the pre-trial detention of Arif and Leyla Yunus: "Azerbaijan - Arif Yunus placed in pre-trial detention."
Global Voices – Public appeal for book donations for Rasul Jafarov: "#BooksForRasul: What Jailed Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders Need Most? Books."
Štefan Füle, Spokesperson of the EU High Representative/Vice President and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy – Statement of concern: "Azerbaijan: EU Concerned by Further Arrests of Human Rights Activists."
Netherlands Helsinki Committee – Appeal to send letters and postcards of support to Leyla Yunis, Arif Yunus, and Rasul Jafarov: "Shocking new arrests of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan."
Civic Solidarity – Open letter of support for Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, and Rasul Jafarov: "Send a letter of support to arrested activists in Azerbaijan!"
FIDH - Worldwide Human Rights Movement – Letter to the Secretary General of the CoE and the Committee of Ministers of the CoE: "Open Letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers about the increasing repression against civil society and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan."
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the CoE – Reaction to arrest of Leyla Yunus: "Azerbaijan: Thorbjørn Jagland reacts to arrest of Leyla Yunus."
Bård Glad Pedersen, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs – Statement on the detainment of human rights activists while Azerbaijan hold the chairmanship of the CoE.
"Human rights activists detained in Azerbaijan."
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland – Statement regarding politically motivated arrests in Azerbaijan: "Politically motivated arrests of Azerbaijani civil society activists."
International Partnership for Human Rights – Letter to EU embassies: "Azerbaijan: Letter to EU embassies on current civil society crackdown."
Human Rights Network – Statement on repression in Azerbaijan: "Statement from the Human Rights Network on repression in Azerbaijan." Published on Meydan.
Human Rights House – Letter to Secretary General of the Council of Europe: "Wave of repression in Azerbaijan: joint letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe."
Editorial Board Washington Post: "Azerbaijan prosecutes a prominent human rights defender on absurd charges"
EU, 1013th OSCE Special Permanent Council, 14 August 2014 – Statement on the situation of human rights and civil society in Azerbaijan: "EU Statement on the situation of human rights and civil society in Azerbaijan."
Human Rights Watch – Call to suspend Azerbaijan from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI): "Azerbaijan: Transparency Group Should Suspend Membership."
International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute – Appeal to Council of Europe (CoE) to take action regarding the political prisoners situation in Azerbaijan: "IBAHR calls on the Council of Europe to take urgent action against Azerbaijan."
Civil Rights Defenders – Letter to President Ilham Aliyev, Minister of Justice Fikrat Mammadov and Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov: "Open letter on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan."
Amnesty International – Public appeal to provide medical care to Leyla Yunus: "Azerbaijan: Provide medical care for prisoner in failing health."
Cesta Iniciativy – Letter to President Ilham Aliyev: "Call for the release of the unjustly imprisoned in Azerbaijan!"