24th August 2011
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) condemns the actions of the authorities in the unlawful destruction of the property owned by Leyla Yunus on the night of the 11 August 2011. The building, owned by human rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband, was destroyed by bulldozers the day after she gave an interview to the New York Times newspaper criticizing a "beautification" project in the capital Baku. The coalition is concerned that the demolition of the property appears to be an act of retaliation by the authorities, targeting Leyla Yunus for her open criticism of government endorsed forced evictions and the demolition of buildings in central Baku as part of a reconstruction project.
The coalition deplores that the demolition paralyzed the work of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD), the Azerbaijani Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Women's Crisis Centre, who have had their property, equipment and office space destroyed without compensation. The destruction of the property was carried out despite a court order banning any demolition attempts on the property until a court hearing on 13 September 2011.
The coalition is especially concerned that the women human rights defenders in Azerbaijan appear to be routinely targeted and intimidated. Leyla Yunus has been targeted previously by the authorities for her activities as a human rights defender. On 3 December 2009, the Ministry of Internal Affairs brought a defamation suite against her in connection with an interview for the news website www.day.az, where she criticized authorities handling of the case of three missing girls.
In her 2010 report on the situation of human rights defenders, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Margaret Sekaggya recommended that states “ensure that violations against women defenders… committed by State and non-State agents are promptly and impartially investigated and that those responsible are punished in an appropriate manner. Fighting impunity is essential for the security of this group of defenders”.
The coalition calls for the Azerbaijan government to:
- Ensure that there is a prompt, thorough and impartial inquiry to establish the circumstances of and responsibility for authorising the destruction of the buildings on the night of 11 August 2011, despite the order of the court, and ensure that this information is made available to the court.
- Ensure that Ms Yunus, as well as the organizations whose property and equipment were destroyed receive appropriate remedy and adequate compensation for their losses.
- Immediately stop forced evictions of people from their homes in Baku and ensure that any evictions are carried out only as last resort, and in full compliance with international human rights standards, including adequate prior notice and genuine consultation with those affected, exploring all feasible alternatives, and guarantees of effective opportunities to contest eviction orders in court, and, where evictions do take place, provision of adequate alternative housing and compensation.
The Coalition urges the Azerbaijan government to fulfil its obligations under international law and protect women human rights defenders against reprisals and other violations. This includes commitments under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as well as obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Azerbaijan has been a party since 1995. The coalition calls on the government of Azerbaijan to ensure that human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of harassment and reprisals
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide.
This statement has been endorsed by the following organisations:
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights, Nigeria
Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL)
Centre for Women's and Adolescents' Empowerment, Nigeria
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Front Line International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Salmah Women's Resource Centre, Sudan
Shirkat Gah, Pakistan
Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights (UAF)
Women Living Under Muslim Laws - Africa and Middle East, Senegal
Women Living Under Muslim Laws - International Coordination
Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
THIS STATEMENT WAS SENT TO:
The Office of president of Azerbaijan,
Baku City Executive Authority,
Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Head, Baku City Executive Power,
and the Azerbaijani media.