On October 9th, Crude Accountability delivered its remarks at the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference 2023, one of the largest human rights conferences in the region.
During the intervention at the plenary session on the rule of law, Crude Accountability director Kate Watters focused on the dangerously shrinking space for civil society in the region, particularly in Azerbaijan, where the regime pressures and wrongfully detains journalists and civil society representatives, including our dear friend and colleague Gubad Ibadoghlu.
A professor at the London School of Economics, a former representative to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and a visiting scholar at many US and European universities, Dr. Ibadoghlu is targeted by Azerbaijani authorities due to his diligent work exposing corruption in the country, including in the oil and gas sector.
Dr. Ibadoghlu is just one of Azerbaijan’s many political prisoners, who are held on spurious charges, denied access to fair trials, mistreated in prison, and kept away from their families and loved ones. Azerbaijan’s political prisoners, including Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, must be immediately and unconditionally released.
The video and the full transcription of the intervention are provided below.
Kate Watters: Dear Chair and representatives of participating states and civil society organizations,
It is an honor to be here and to have the opportunity to speak at this session. Throughout the OSCE region, space for civil society is shrinking dangerously and significantly. This is true in many countries, including in Azerbaijan, where the regime pressures and wrongfully imprisons journalists, civil society representatives, and those it perceives to be in opposition to it.
According to the US State Department’s 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Azerbaijan, among a litany of significant human rights violations, arbitrary detention remains a serious problem, with the authorities failing to observe requirements related to arbitrary arrest and detention, including pretrial detention.
Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, a renowned economist, anticorruption activist, and academic, was violently arrested on July 23rd of this year. Since then, he is being arbitrarily detained in Azerbaijan’s Kurdekhani pre-trial detention center. The spurious charge against him is for allegedly manufacturing and selling counterfeit money as part of an organized group, a charge that carries a punishment of eight to twelve years’ imprisonment. This accusation is clearly fabricated and follows a pattern of officially sanctioned violence against and harassment of civil society representatives in the country.
Dr. Ibadoghlu is in poor health, suffering from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, conditions which have been exacerbated by the inhumane conditions of his incarceration. He is denied regular access to his medication by the prison authorities and is living in unsanitary conditions, according to his lawyer.
Requests by Ibadoghlu’s lawyer that he be allowed to serve his pre-trial detention under house arrest because of the severity of his health issues have been denied 21 times by the judges in both the Narimov District Court and the Baku Court of Appeals.
Dr. Ibadoghlu’s targeting by the Azerbaijani authorities appears to be related to his diligent work to expose corruption in the country, including in the oil and gas sector. A professor at the London School of Economics, former representative to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and visiting scholar at many US and European universities, Dr. Ibadoghlu has long been harassed by the Azerbaijani government.
Dr. Ibadoghlu is just one of Azerbaijan’s many political prisoners, who are held on spurious charges, denied access to fair trials, mistreated in prison, and kept from their families and loved ones.
We urge Participating States to demand Dr. Ibadoghlu’s immediate and unconditional release, and to conduct an inquiry into conditions at the Kurdekhani Pre-trial Detention Center, as well as whether Azerbaijan’s judges and courts are complying with Azerbaijani law regarding the right to a fair trial as well as the country’s international commitments regarding human rights and the rule of law.
Azerbaijan’s political prisoners, including Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, must be immediately and unconditionally released.