"Cleanup of the Territory": The Govenrment's Plan for
the "Freeest and Most Democratic Elections"
Statement of Institute for Peace and Democracy
May 16th 2008
Ramiz Mekhtiyev, the Chief of the Presidential Administration, declared
that the "freest and most democratic elections would be held in Azerbaijan
in October this year and the people will elect Ilham Aliyev." Government
authorities will carry out the following for conducting "the freeest
and most democratic elections":
Restrain freedom of speech and carry out the "cleanup of the
territory" of uncontrolled mass media and independent journalism. This
drawn-out operation actually began on March 2, 2005 after the assassination
of Elmar Huseynov, the editor of Monitor magazine, and continues to the
present through various means of reppression: depriving journalists
of freedom and sentencing them to long-periods of imprisonment on the basis
of false accusations; assaulting journalists; torturing journalists at
Offices of the Public Prosecutor; falsifying investigations and carrying
out smear campaigns to discredit journalists in the electronic media, which
is fully subordinate to the authorities.
Limit the activities of civil society organizations: on May 14, the
court ruled in favor of the petition of the Ministry of Justice to void
the registration of the "Election Monitoring Centre," an important NGO
that has a a lot of experience in monitoring elections with branches and
representatives in all provinces.
Deprive Azerbaijan's citizens of the constitutional right of freedom
of assembly. The last demonstration that was allowed by authorities was
held in Baku on November 26, 2005 (despite permission being granted
to hold the rally, it was brutally dispersed by the police --- in violation
of the " Law On Police" and other laws of the Azerbaijani Republic
--- resulting in numerous injuries, particularly among children and women).
None of numerous requests by political parties, civil society organizations,
mass media for public assemblies in Baku or district capitals, was approved.
Any attempts to hold an unapproved meeting were brutally suppressed and
participants arraigned and punished by administrative order.
Turn the judicial system into an institution of repression against opposition
representatives and other dissenters. As a result, the number of political
prisoners keeps increasing at the expense of activists of political parties
and journalists. The latest judgments include: opposition activist Mussa
Ragim Manafoglu, sentenced to a 5 year imprisonment in 2007 on the basis
of a false accusation of resisting the police; journalist-satirist Sakit
Zakhidov was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment in 2006; editor
and publisher Eynulla Fatullayev was given 8 years' imprisonment in 2007;
journalist Mushvig Huseynov 6 years' of imprisonment in 2008; and
editor Ganimat Zakhidov, 4 years' imprisonment in
Deprive all opposition parties their head-quarters in the capital (no
opposition party has an office in the city's downtown), as well as in the
Threaten students with expulsion from the Universities in case if their
participation in opposition party activities.
Include technical amendments to the Electoral code so that electoral
commissions at all levels remain under the total control of the ruling
party. The staff of the electoral commission remains the same as that
which falsified the results of elections of the presidential elections
of 2003 and the parliament elections of 2005.
In 2003 and 2005, opposition parties, independent mass media, and civil
society were able to disseminate the following information to the broad
public of Azerbaijan and the international community:
(1) The facts of massive electoral falsification and outright forgery
of voting results;
(2) Iinformation about repressions toward members of electoral commissions
who refused to sign falsified voting protocols;
(3) Facts of violence and illegal actions by law-enforcement bodies
and the courts.
Taking this experience into account, the authorities have decided to
carry out a full "cleanup of the territory" of Azerbaijan so that citizens
of the country have no chance either to withstand the falsifications
and violence or monitor these crimes and inform the world about it.
Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy