Tuesday, September 02, 2014

EU Criticizes Russia Over Bolotnaya Sentences

Defendants Aleksandr Margolin (right) and Ilya Guschin (center) stand in a cage during a hearing in the Bolotnaya case in a courtroom in Moscow in May.


The European Union has criticized the recent convictions and sentencing of six activists involved in the antigovernment Bolotnaya protests in Moscow in May 2012.

A Moscow judge sentenced the activists in July and August to up to 4 1/2 years in prison on charges of rioting.

The protests, which turned violent, occurred on the eve of the May 2012 inauguration of President Vladimir Putin.

A statement from the office of EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said, "As we have repeatedly pointed out, such sentences not only seem disproportionate, in the light of the nature of the events and the offenses these activists are accused of, but also curtail the exercise of freedom of expression and of assembly in Russia."

The EU called on Russia to honor its international rights obligations, "in particular the right to a fair trial and the respect of freedoms of expression, assembly and association."

UN Calls On Azerbaijan To Stop Persecuting And Release Activists

Leyla Yunus (left), the head of Peace and Democracy İnstitute and a fierce critic of Azerbaijan's poor rights record, was arrested on July 30.


UN human rights experts have condemned the increased prosecution of human rights activists in Azerbaijan and urged Baku to "reverse the trend of repression."

In a statement issued by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the experts said they are "appalled" by several incidents in which Azerbaijani officials use surveillance and interrogation to arrest and sentence rights activists "on the basis of trumped-up charges."

They said the "criminalization of rights activists must stop" and that those who have been unjustly detained be "immediately freed," including Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Intigam Aliyev.

The group of experts is made up of the UN's special rapporteurs on human rights defenders (Michel Forst), freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Maina Kiai), and freedom of opinion and expression (David Kaye).

HRW Calls For Release Of Dozens Of Iranian Prisoners


Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging Iranian authorities to "immediately and unconditionally" release immediately dozens of prisoners jailed in the northern city of Karaj.

In a 59-page report released on August 19, the New York-based organization reviewed the cases of 189 people locked up in three prisons in Karaj, located 50 kilometers west of the capital, Tehran.

The group concluded that in 62 cases, prisoners had been arrested, convicted, and sentenced "solely because they exercised fundamental rights such as free speech and rights to peaceful assembly or association."

In dozens of other cases, including 35 prisoners sentenced to death on death row for terrorism-related offenses, HRW suspects "egregious due-process violations that may have tainted the judicial process."

HRW Calls For Azerbaijan's Suspension From Transparency Group


A prominent rights group says Azerbaijan is increasing pressure on activists and should be suspended from an international coalition that promotes openness in the oil and gas industries.

Human Rights Watch said Azerbaijani government pressure may soon force independent organizations involved in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to close.

It said oil-producing Azerbaijan, which helped found EITI and sits on its governing board, is "squeezing activists to the breaking point while claiming ... that it's a leader on open civic participation and good governance."

"Azerbaijan is blatantly violating EITI rules, and EITI cannot afford to be complicit in this hypocrisy," Human Rights Watch said on August 14.

It said pressure on groups involved in EITI includes the freezing of bank accounts and is part of a broader crackdown that has escalated since a 2013 presidential election. 

UN Special Rapporteur Urges Iran To Address Rights Violations

RFE/RL's Radio Farda

A United Nations human rights envoy has urged Tehran to address human rights issues highlighted in a UN report

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's special rapporteur on Iran, said the report and its recommendations were aimed at helping to improve the human rights situation in the country. 

Shaheed told RFE/RL that the sooner Tehran "begins to see these reports are designed to help the government and the people, the sooner they begin to address the challenges the country faces."

Iran has dismissed the report, saying it's based on Western norms and fails to take Iran's Islamic culture into consideration.

Tehran in June urged the UN to review the report.

The March 13 report highlighted a rise in executions, pressure on minorities, and the lack of independence of Iran's judiciary.

For his report, Shaheed interviewed more than 100 rights defenders, lawyers, and members of ethnic and religious minorities inside and outside of Iran.

Amnesty Calls For Release Of Azerbaijani Dissident, Amid Health Concerns


Rights group Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus amid reports her health has been rapidly deteriorating.

Amnesty said in an August 12 statement that authorities have refused to provide Yunus with medical assistance or medication for diabetes and kidney disease.

The group said Yunus has been complaining of pains and weakness but that prison authorities have refused to hospitalize her.

Yunus, a 57-year-old fierce critic of Azerbaijan's poor rights record, was arrested on July 30. She was charged with high treason, spying for Armenia, illegal business activities, documents forgery, and fraud.

Her husband, Arif Yunus, 59, was also reportedly arrested on August 5, charged with treason and fraud, and put under police surveilance.

Amnesty called for the couple to be "immediately and unconditionally" released and for Leyla Yunus to be given urgent medical treatment.

Belarusian Rights Activist Sentenced To Three Years In Prison

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

A Belarusian court on August 12 convicted human rights defender Andrey Bandarenka on charges of hooliganism and assault and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Bandarenka is accused of assaulting people in three different incidents. He denies the charges.

He is the leader of Platform Innovation, a group involved in defending the rights of inmates in Belarusian prisons.

Bandarenka, 41, has been in police custody since his arrest in Minsk in April. His trial began in July.

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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