Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC) and Roger Gale (UK/EC/DA), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Azerbaijan, have expressed their deep concern about the violence used by the police during the dispersion of a peaceful rally held in Baku on 19 October 2019.
The rapporteurs were equally concerned by the detention of many participants and the alleged mis-treatment of some of them. “These regretful events should be seen in the context of the ongoing violations of freedom of assembly, and, more generally, the restrictive environment inhibiting the activities of government critics and opponents,” the co-rapporteurs said.
“The authorities abuse a clause in the law on assembly, which requires the organisers to provide advance notification, and systematically prevent independent groups from meeting in the city. The police response to the peaceful unauthorised rally was excessive and disproportionate,” they said.
“We have received information that at least ten members of the opposition Popular Front Party had been detained a day before the rally and that five of them had been sentenced to 60 days of administrative detention. Many others were arrested during the rally, and some of them, including Ali Karimli, leader of the Popular Front Party, were allegedly tortured and deprived of access to lawyers. The whereabouts of some remains unknown,” they added.
“Freedom of assembly is severely restricted in Azerbaijan. We call on the authorities to lift restrictions on peaceful rallies, release all those unlawfully detained and investigate cases of alleged torture and mistreatment,” the co-rapporteurs concluded.