Human rights defenders must be able to work in safety, UN tells Azerbaijan
The United Nations today voiced its concern at the destruction of property housing several important non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Azerbaijan, and called on the country's Government to ensure safe working conditions for human rights defenders.
The building in Baku housing the Institute of Peace and Democracy as well as the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Women's Crisis Center – the only women's shelter in the capital – was destroyed on 11 August.
City officials allegedly refused to allow the occupants to remove their belongings from the building, including valuable office equipment and files, before bulldozers carried out the demolition, despite a May ruling by a Baku court prohibiting the destruction of the building, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“Given the worrying reports of forced evictions and destruction of property in Baku, as well as of harassment of human rights defenders, we call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to thoroughly investigate this case and, if necessary, provide adequate compensation and restitution,” Rupert Colville, OHCHR's spokesperson in Geneva, told a news conference.
He also called on the Government to guarantee safe working conditions for the Institute for Peace and Democracy, as well as for other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.
“The Government of Azerbaijan is obliged, by the international and regional treaties which it has ratified, to ensure respect for the right to adequate housing, for the prohibition of forced evictions and property rights, as well as for the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders,” said Mr. Colville.