The South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders

Emin Huseynov forced into hiding in Azerbaijan
Since August 2014, the human rights defender Emin Huseynov has been forced into hiding in Azerbaijan to ensure his protection from a wave of repression in the country. Only after he went into hiding the authorities officially charged him.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015, by Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

Emin Huseynov, journalist and human rights defender, Director of the Azerbaijani Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS)
Emin Huseynov is a prominent and internationally recognised human rights defender and leader of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS). IRFS is the leading media rights organisation in Azerbaijan and one of the main partner organisations of the Human Rights House Network in the country.
Huseynov is facing various criminal charges, similar to the ones held against human rights defender Rasul Jafarov and human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, accused of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of authority. Both were arrested in August. Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus were charged on similar charges. On 26 May 2014, Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre were sentenced to respectively 5 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years and 6 months on same charges.

Hiding in Swiss embassy

In the midst of the unprecedented repression against civil society in Azerbaijan, Emin Huseynov was forced into hiding. As revealed on 11 February 2015 by the television show “Rundschau” of the Swiss Radio Television, he has, since August 2014, been living at the Swiss Embassy in Azerbaijan. 

“Switzerland lives up to its standard,” reacted Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy at the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF). “Now, Switzerland needs to continue to host Emin Huseynov for humanitarian reasons. His location at the Embassy is justified by the level of the repression in the country, the bogus charges brought against human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and the impossibility for them to defend themselves in court, due to the lack of independence of the judiciary and the harassment of their lawyers.”

President of the Confederation and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland Didier Burkhalter meeting with leading Azerbaijani human rights defenders and opposition in Baku (2 June 2014).

Human Rights House Network members have repeatedly called for the charges against the detained human rights defenders, journalists and activists to be dropped immediately and unconditionnally, including for Emin Huseynov. Our latest request for the charges to be dropped was in HRHN's joint letter to President Ilham Aliyev on 11 November 2014.

Threats and pressure

Huseynov’s family is facing various kinds of pressure from authorities since he is in hiding. On 10 November 2014, the blogger Mehman Huseynov, brother of Emin and also an IRFS employee, was stopped and interrogated at the Baku Airport and later released. He was arrested in relation to an on going investigation against him, based on which he was issued a travel ban. Mehman Huseynov was awarded in 2013 with the Press Prize Award from Fritt Ord Foundation and the Zeit Foundation. His travel ban was issued days before he was to travel to Oslo to receive his prize. He is still not allowed to leave the country. On 1 December 2014, the identity cards of Mehman Huseynov were confiscated based on unclear grounds. The authorities have also interrogated the mother of Huseynov. 

“Since Emin Huseynov went into hiding, the authorities have targeted IRFS, leading to the organisation’s office being searched and the employee’s not being allowed to use their office anymore,” further commented Florian Irminger. Employees of IRFS are also questioned and put under pressure by the authorities. Recently the human rights lawyer Gunay Ismayilov of IRFS was attacked outside her apartment in the evening.

Major health problems

Emin Huseynov had major health problems in the past; some of them originated from beatings by police in 2003 and 2008, which had severe consequences for him. “Imprisonment in Azerbaijani prisons, well-known for their poor state, would present a major risk to Emin Huseynov’s health” said Florian Irminger. “The lack of access to the needed medical relief for Leyla Yunus and Intigam Aliyev in pre-trial detention further underlines that Azerbaijani authorities do not take all necessary measures to ensure that the health of inmates does not suffer any harm.”

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