Letter to the Swedish PM Regarding the European Games in Baku


June 4th 2015

As members of the Sport for Rights campaign, we are writing regarding the inaugural European Games that will take place from 12 – 28 June in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Although the Azerbaijani regime spends a great deal of time and money to promote a positive image abroad, at home it is engaged in a brutal human rights crackdown. This crackdown has particularly intensified over the past year, as the authorities have worked aggressively to silence all forms of criticism and dissent.

As a result, there are now dozens of political prisoners in the country, including eight journalists and five human rights defenders (listed here: SFR Swedish PM letter), jailed on spurious charges, with some facing prison sentences of up to 12 years. Another human rights defender is trapped in the Swiss embassy in Baku, facing arrest if he leaves. These individuals have been targeted for their work defending the rights of others and telling the truth about the situation in their country.

In light of these serious problems, we are asking you to make your participation in the opening ceremony of the Games contingent on the release of the jailed journalists and human rights defenders Azerbaijan. Similarly, we ask that you do not send a high-level government delegation to the Games unless these individuals are released. Further, we urge you to make an immediate public statement condemning the ongoing human rights crackdown in the country and calling for the release of the jailed journalists and human rights defenders.

We want to be clear that we are not calling for a public boycott of the Games. We are simply asking you to take this opportunity to impact positive, democratic change, and to help our Azerbaijani colleagues, in the spirit of Swedish values.

Sincerely yours,

Mike Harris, Director 89up

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director ARTICLE 19

Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders

Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists

Marian Turner, Executive Director, Freedom Now

Danuta Przywara, Chair of the Board, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship

Karim Lahidji, President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Jesper Højberg, Executive Director, International Media Support

Simon Papuashvili, Project Coordinator, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)

Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Karin Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Program, PEN American Centre

Ivana Skalova, Head of the Eastern European Program, Center for Democracy and Human Rights, People in Need

Emma Hughes, Strategy Director, Platform

Joanna Furmaga, Chair, Polish Green Network

Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within
the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Yulia Slutskaya, Director, Solidarity with Belarus Information Office

Categories: News.
Tags: Azerbaijan and European Games.
Regions: Azerbaijan.