The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement today (1 August) on the indictment of the Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus:
I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunusov by the Azerbaijani authorities. The current criminal investigation sends another message of intimidation to Azerbaijani civil society, which has been under increasing pressure from state agencies recently.
These actions cast doubt on whether Azerbaijan really is interested in building confidence within the context of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. However, confidence-building – especially at civil society level – is vital if the efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict, which Germany supports, are to make progress.
Civil society engagement must remain possible in Azerbaijan without fear of prosecution. I call on the Azerbaijani Government to ensure that the investigation against Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunusov, as well as against Rauf Mirkadirov, is carried out in strict accordance with the rule of law. Furthermore, it must be ensured that Leyla Yunus receives the necessary medical care while in pre-trial detention.
Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunusov, together with Rauf Mirkadirov – who has been in pre-trial detention since April 2014 – were working on a civil society reconciliation process with Armenia.
After Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunusov were prevented from leaving the country at Baku airport in April and after being questioned by the public prosecutor’s office, they were taken into pre-trial detention on 30 July 2014. They are to remain in custody for three months. They have been charged with high treason as well as fraud, tax evasion, forging documents and illegal business activities. Leyla Yunus has diabetes and therefore needs special drugs.
Yunus, who is one of the best-known human rights activists in Azerbaijan, founded the first NGO for human rights in 1988, in the then Soviet Union. She was the Defence Ministry spokesperson during the Popular Front government in 1992 and 1993. The Institute for Peace and Democracy she established in 1995 seeks to foster protection of human rights, democratisation and reconciliation.