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PACE rapporteur denounces arrest of Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus on treason charges

“A few weeks ago, I expressed concern about the severe judicial and administrative harassment of Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus. Today, I must denounce her arrest and detention and express concern for the true motivation underlying the charges levied against her,” Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE), the PACE rapporteur on ‘Strengthening the role and protection of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States’, said in a statement.

On 30 July, Ms Yunus was arrested and charged with treason, tax evasion, and illegal entrepreneurship. The Prosecutor’s Office claims Ms Yunus passed classified information to Armenia through a journalist arrested earlier, Mr Rauf Mirkadirov. Ms Yunus will remain in pre-trial detention.

“Leyla Yunus is a highly-regarded defender of human rights in Azerbaijan, leading the Institute for Peace and Democracy, an organisation committed to promoting the rule of law and fighting corruption. Her invaluable contribution to strengthening human rights protection in Azerbaijan has been widely recognised internationally, and Ms Yunus has received several international prizes for her work. Notably, she has been a vocal advocate of reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan working to foster dialogue, mutual understanding, and peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through civil society. The charges against Leyla Yunus appear to be retaliation for her work on reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia and threaten to stifle further progress in this crucial sphere,” Ms Reps stated.

“As a Council of Europe member State and the current chair of the Committee of Ministers, Azerbaijan has an obligation to uphold human rights and the rule of law. Ms Yunus’ arrest is another example of the unrelenting suppression of independent voices and crackdown on civil society in the country. This is an unacceptable violation of Azerbaijan’s duties as a member of the Council of Europe”, Ms Reps added.