Journalists and civil society activists continued to face intimidation. The authorities continued to ban demonstrations in the centre of Baku. NGOs and religious organizations faced restrictions in obtaining registration.
The parliamentary elections on 7 November were described by the OSCE as “peaceful” but “not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country.”
Against a backdrop of skirmishes along Azerbaijan and Armenia’s ceasefire line and an increase in their defence budgets, little progress was made in the negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group. Some 600,000 people internally displaced by the conflict continued to suffer discriminatory registration requirements and inadequate housing.Top of page
Threats, harassment, and acts of violence against journalists and civil society activists continued with impunity, leading to an increase in self-censorship. Criminal and civil defamation laws were used to silence criticism, resulting in prison sentences and heavy fines against journalists.
On 12 February, the parliament (Milli Mejlis), approved a ban on the use of video, photo, or voice recordings without the subject’s prior knowledge or consent. Only law enforcement officials were exempt.
Journalists and civil society activists were frequently subjected to violence and prevented from carrying out their work, sometimes through excessive use of force by police officers.
During the election period, a number of journalists were forcibly expelled from polling stations and detained by the police when trying to record electoral violations such as ballot stuffing.
On 22 April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Eynulla Fatullayev, a newspaper editor and journalist, was unlawfully imprisoned, and ordered his immediate release. He had been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, incitement to ethnic hatred, terrorism and tax evasion. He remained in prison and, on 6 July, a Baku court convicted and sentenced him to two and a half years in prison for possession of illegal drugs. On 11 November the Supreme Court annulled the charges of defamation, incitement to ethnic hatred and terrorism. However, Eynulla Fatullayev remained in prison on the drug-related charges, which were widely believed to have been fabricated.
Two youth activists and bloggers, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev (blogger name Emin Milli), held on fabricated charges of “hooliganism” since 8 July 2009, were conditionally released on 18 and 19 November, having served 16 months of their respective 24 and 30 month prison sentences. By the end of the year, their convictions had not been overturned.Top of page
Demonstrations continued to be banned in Baku’s city centre. Throughout the year, especially during the election period, opposition parties were prevented from holding rallies or demonstrations, or were allocated unsuitable locations such as building sites.
Loopholes in the law relating to the registration of NGOs continued to be used to prevent organizations from registering legally. Some religious communities were also denied registration or faced difficulties re-registering, following the 2009 amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion which made unregistered activity illegal. According to a report published in June by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, fewer than half the 534 previously registered religious communities were able to re-register.Top of page
On 25 May, parliament adopted the Draft Law on Domestic Violence, criminalizing domestic violence and providing for the creation of aid centres for victims of violence.Top of page