UN rights experts deeply concerned about post-election events in Azerbaijan

28 October 2003

Four independent United Nations human rights experts are "deeply concerned" about information they have received that one person died, many were injured and hundreds of protesters and election workers were detained in Azerbaijan in connection with the 15 October presidential elections.

"The experts…have received information that hundreds of demonstrators have been harassed, attacked, arrested and detained by security forces, who have apparently used excessive force to disperse demonstrators, leading to the death of at least one person and to many others being injured," said a statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).

"Opposition leaders and journalists were specifically targeted, with many of them being arrested and detained. A number of independent election observers and polling station officials, who refused to sign vote tallies they alleged were fraudulent, also appear to have been arrested."

The four experts - three Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, arbitrary executions and torture, and the Special Representative on human rights defenders - urged the Azerbaijani Government to conduct transparent and independent investigations of the allegations "in order to assess the accountability of law enforcement and security officials," UNHCHR said.

They reminded the Government of Azerbaijan that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference" and called on it to respect the rights to assemble and protest.

Under Article 5 of the Declaration, they added, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or punishment."


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