Peaceful protests were banned and violently dispersed. Opposition activists were imprisoned. Protests and expression of dissent were repressed and freedom of expression, assembly and association were restricted.
Increasing frustration with authoritarian rule, and tight controls over those expressing critical views, led to a series of protests in March and April. Hundreds of people gathered in the capital Baku to demand democratic reform and greater respect for human rights. These nascent signs of popular protest were repressed by the government with a new wave of repression and intimidation. The authorities imprisoned youth activists and opposition supporters behind the protests and stepped up the harassment of the civil society groups and media who could speak on their behalf.Top of page
On 26 May, following significant international pressure, Eynulla Fatullayev, halfway through serving an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence on trumped-up charges, was released by a presidential pardon. On 26 December, opposition youth activist Jabbar Savalan was released following a presidential pardon. He had been arrested on 5 February, a day after calling for protests online and re-posting an article critical of the government. He was allegedly beaten while in police custody to force him to sign a false confession and was sentenced to over two years in prison on fabricated charges of drug possession.
However, 16 activists and opposition supporters remained imprisoned as prisoners of conscience in connection with the protests in March and April.
Independent and opposition journalists faced increased violence during the protests and were prevented from carrying out their work. By the end of the year, there had been no effective investigation into violent attacks on journalists and no one had been brought to justice.
A ban on demonstrations effectively criminalized the protests in March and April, and led to imprisonment for many of those who organized and took part in them.
NGOs working on democratic reform and human rights issues faced increased pressure and harassment.
Several activists detained at and after the protests in March and April complained of ill-treatment at the moment of their arrest and subsequently while in police custody. By the end of the year none of these allegations had been effectively investigated.