OSLO—“Freedom of religion or belief and related human rights such as the freedom of expression and of assembly remain highly restricted,” says a report published by Forum 18, a Web and email initiative, which provides original reporting and analysis on violations of the freedom of thought, conscience and belief of all people, whatever their religious affiliation, in an objective, truthful and timely manner.
Among issues documented in Forum 18’s religious freedom survey are: state attempts to counter discussion of violations with claims of inter-religious harmony and religious tolerance; officials behaving as if the rule of law places no limitations on their actions; unfair trials lacking due legal process; steadily increasing “legal” restrictions on and punishments for exercising freedom of religion or belief, often prepared in secret, forming a labyrinth of restrictive state controls; “legal” denials of international human rights standards Azerbaijan has agreed to implement; a highly restrictive censorship regime; enforced closures of places people meet for worship; a ban on praying outside mosques; jailing of prisoners of conscience exercising the right to conscientious objection to military service; arbitrary deportations of foreign citizens exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief; and severe denials of human rights in Nakhichevan.
“Azerbaijan is likely to remain a place where fundamental human rights are violated with impunity, and the state tries to make exercising human rights conditional upon state permission,” says the report.
Forum 18, named after Article 18 of the Universal Declaration Human Rights is a Norwegian-Danish non-profit charitable initiative
In his presentation government ministers on Monday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said that the Armenian lobby was to blamed for the international community’s criticism of Baku’s abysmal policy on human rights and continuous abuses.