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Azerbaijan: Commissioner for Human Rights confirms conference no-go

Human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks says he is visiting Azerbaijan to meet with jailed human rights activists and not to attend a two-day international justice conference starting on 24 October.

In a Facebook message published earlier today, Muižnieks wrote : “I have not come to Azerbaijan to participate in a conference, but to meet with human rights defenders in detention, their defense lawyers and families, and to continue my dialogue with the authorities on ways to improve freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly in the country.”

Yesterday (22 October), a Joint Working Group on Human Rights Issues, composed of 18 human rights defenders, Members of Parliament and officials of the Presidential Administration, met for the first time since 2008 in Baku, following an agreement between Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev.

A representative of the Council of Europe also attended the meeting, which aims to revive dialogue between civil society and the Azerbaijani authorities.

Secretary General Jagland acknowledged the meeting as a step toward improving the current human rights situation in the country.

“The release of four human rights defenders among the 80 prisoners pardoned by presidential decree last week was a first positive step,” he said. “I sincerely hope the Joint Working Group will lead to tangible results and the release of more human rights defenders. In particular, I look forward to the release of Ilgar Mammadov, whose case before the European Court of Human Rights was declared final last week.”

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