According to a report issued by The European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think tank, we are witnessing “the most serious and brutal crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan ever”. Since May 14, 2014 when Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, there have been a series of infringements on human rights and freedoms such as: arrests, pre-trial detainments, court sentences, and other forms of politically motivated repression.
While in the past there were many media outlets, now the information space was reduced dramatically to just one or two outlets. Moreover, in June, Leyla Yunus, an activist who since then was also arrested, has published a list of political prisoners which pointed to the alarming figure of 98 names.
In this context, Azerbaijani authorities state that “foreign forces” use nongovernmental organizations and independent media against the tolerant and democratic environment in Azerbaijan. This is why on September 5, several offices of international organisations were raided amongst which the Baku office of IREX, Transparency International, Oxfam, and the National Democratic Institute.
This crackdown is happening in a sensitive geopolitical context, at a time when the West is more preocuppied with the situation in Ukraine. Some analyists argue that it might be a sign that Baku is giving in to Russian pressure.
Meanwhile, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele was in Baku on September 9 and promised 3 million euros ($5 million) in assistance to civil-society organizations.