In a new report, Amnesty International is urging the international community not to forget about human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
The report, titled "The Spring That Never Blossomed: Freedoms Suppressed In Azerbaijan," says youth activists and opposition figures have been jailed on arbitrary or trumped-up charges, while journalists and human rights defenders have been threatened and harassed in a clampdown on dissent since protests erupted in March.
"Amnesty International is very concerned that Azerbaijan is heading in the wrong direction. This is not a slow, steady progress towards democracy and a rights-respecting country. John Dalhuisen, Amnesty's deputy director in Europe and Central Asia, told Reuters in Baku.
"It's sliding back and the international community must be very strong in engaging with the Azeri authorities and pushing it to respect the rights of its citizens much more assiduously than it has been."
Amnesty International says it considers 17 people convicted during the time of the protests to be "prisoners of conscience," and has called for their immediate release.
The London-based rights group says hundreds of people gathered in the streets of the capital, Baku, in March and April this year demanding democratic reforms and greater respect for human rights.
It says the Azerbaijani authorities under President Ilham Aliyev responded by banning the protests and harassing and arresting bloggers and activists.
"In oil-rich Azerbaijan, 20 years of independence, economic prosperity and relative stability have failed to translate into greater fundamental freedoms for its citizens," the report says.
with agency reports