The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) should suspend Azerbaijan’s membership for failing to carry out key reforms, a coalition of 21 groups including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, PEN International, ARTICLE 19, and International Media Support said today:
The EITI, during its board meeting in Bogota, Colombia, on March 8 and 9, 2017, will review Azerbaijan’s efforts to ease its repression of civil society groups, as the EITI had required.
At its most recent board meeting, in October 2016, the EITI gave Azerbaijan four months to eliminate legal and bureaucratic obstacles inhibiting civil society engagement in the initiative. It required Azerbaijan to simplify procedures for registration of nongovernmental organizations and for the receipt and registration of grants from foreign donors. The reforms would eliminate some mechanisms for the government to interfere with and stop the work of independent groups. The EITI had downgraded Azerbaijan from a full member to a candidate country in April 2015, due to the government’s interference with independent civil society.
A joint letter signed by 22 human rights groups worldwide and sent to EITI board members on February 10, 2017 assessed the Azerbaijan government’s lack of progress on the reforms identified by the EITI and called on the board to suspend Azerbaijan.
“The Azerbaijani government is snubbing the EITI by ignoring its requirements for reforms and by systematically dismantling the country’s independent civil society,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “Following numerous reviews and warnings, the EITI should suspend Azerbaijan’s further participation until the government makes serious, lasting changes to allow nongovernmental groups to operate freely in Azerbaijan.”
Today marks the 12-year anniversary of the still unsolved murder of well-known Azerbaijani journalist Elmar Huseynov (right), notes the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. The IRFS reiterates its condemnation of the impunity given to those responsible for this murder and the steady stream of crimes of violence against journalists in Azerbaijan.
“We honour Elmar’s legacy as a courageous journalist. We have not forgotten Elmar or the four other journalists killed in Aliyev’s Azerbaijan, and we will do everything we can to ensure that justice is done”, IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov said. “If the authorities fail to bring the responsible parties to account, we will turn to the Global Magnitsky Act to seek justice for our colleagues,” he added.