Azeri Human Rights Record Deemed “Abysmal”

* Aliyev’s human rights decree "merely window-dressing," says Human Rights Watch.

WASHINGTON–In a recent report entitled Human Rights Watch World Report 1999–the international watch-dog organization assessed Azerbaijan’s record on human rights as "abysmal."

"Increased international attention to Azerbaijan’s abysmal human rights record failed to yield concrete reforms in 1998. President Haydar Aliyev issued a number of decrees ordering improvemen’s in human rights conditions during the year. However–these were merely window dressing. The measures could not substitute the government’s dismal human rights record," assessed Human Rights Watch.

In addressing issues ranging from the recent presidential elections to the abolishment of the death penalty and individual rights to assembly and speech–Human Rights Watch found gross violations in all realms and specifically targeted Azerbaijan’s powerful Internal Ministry.

The report detailed incidents of physical abuse and torture by authorities against political opponents of the regime. Cases of intimidation–harassment and even kidnapping by law enforcement agencies were deemed rampant by human rights group.

"Although the parliament adopted legislation in February abolishing the death penalty–developmen’s during the year pointed to the hallowness of Azerbaijani government’s commitment to improved practices in other areas," reported Human Rights Watch.

"Especially alarming was the climate of impunity in which the police acted; statistics provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs showed that only two police officers had been prosecuted for physical abuse in Baku in 1997," said the report.

The report also criticized European and US governmen’s–institutions and structures for their silence regarding human rights violations in Azerbaijan.

"…Multinational companies were silent on issues such as the lack of an independent and impartial judiciary to provide citizens recourse to a system of peacefully resolving disputes–lack of an institution building to ensure respect for electoral rights to guarantee peaceful transitions of power–openness and transparency in the formulation of laws and regulations to combat corruption–and free press to serve as a check on government abuses," noted the report.

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