Christoph Strässer, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, issued the following statement on 29 September in response to Anar Mammadli receiving the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize:
My heartfelt congratulations go to Anar Mammadli as he receives the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. In awarding him this prize, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognises Mr Mammadli’s tireless commitment to human rights in Azerbaijan. Anar Mammadli was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in May 2014, on the basis of dubious accusations, because of his political work for human rights in Azerbaijan.
I call on the Azerbaijani Government to release Mr Mammadli and all other political prisoners in Azerbaijan without delay and to finally put an end to its ongoing repression of civil society, political opposition and independent media.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the B’Tselem Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta on the distinction of being nominated for the prize and to thank them for their valuable work.
The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Czech Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights. The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, the Czech playwright, essayist, human rights activist and politician. It is worth 60,000 euros.
Anar Mammadli is chairman of the Azerbaijani Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), which he founded in 2001, and has in that role made outstanding contributions to the protection of voting rights in Azerbaijan. He was arrested in December 2013 and charged with a number of offences including abuse of power. In May 2014, he was sentenced to five and a half years in jail.