Azerbaijan generally respects religion but repression persists in some areas – UN expert

8 March 2006

Calling for strengthening impartial, democratic institutions in Azerbaijan, an independent United Nations human rights expert today said the national Government generally respects freedom of religion but in some regions administrative controls “result in real forms of repression.”

Measures include restriction on religious literature and methods of appointment of clergy or obstacles for non-registered religious communities, Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, said at the end of a visit to Azerbaijan that started on 26 February.

“To address these concerns as well as other related human rights, the existence of effective independent and impartial administrative and judicial mechanisms is of crucial importance,” Ms. Jahangir said.

While she said the country's Constitution contains the main guarantees of the right to freedom of religion of belief, she found possible shortcomings in the corresponding legislative framework that she promised to address in a forthcoming report.

However, in terms of the general atmosphere in the country, Ms. Jahangir found an “undisputable degree of tolerance” of the population, which she said is an essential ingredient of the freedom of religion or belief in a society.

“The most striking feature of Azerbaijan regarding issues relevant to my mandate is the easygoing and dispassionate attitude shown by the Azerbaijanis towards religion,” she said.

Unfortunately, she said that the level of tolerance between religious communities is “sometimes significantly challenged,” partly due to the actions of authorities and “the negative role played by some media in stigmatizing certain religious communities.”

In that respect, she stressed the responsibility of the media and drew the attention on the relevant provisions of international law that prohibit any form of incitement to religious hatred, such as article 20 of the International Covenant on civil and political rights.

Special Rapporteurs are independent, unpaid experts with mandates from the UN Human Rights Commission.

 

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