Emin Aslan’s appeal denied in Azerbaijani

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Executive Director

BAKU, Azerbaijani – Detained human rights lawyer, Emin Aslan, appealed his detention in Azerbaijani’s Court of Appeals on June 8th. None of Aslan’s eight defense motions were granted and the court rejected his appeal.

Emin Aslan at Syracuse University College of Law. Image Courtesy of Emin Aslan.

In the appeal, Aslan denied committing the alleged administrative offense. He maintained that he was detained in front of Park Boulevard Mall at 17:30, while the police report says he was detained in Narimanov Park at 23:30. Aslan’s lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, petitioned to attach testimony of a witness that corroborates Aslan’s version of events. He also sought to interrogate additional witnesses of the event and requested records from CCTV cameras in the territory. These motions were rejected.

The Court of Appeals ultimately upheld Aslan’s detention on allegations that Aslan was swearing on the phone. Friends and co-workers of Aslan say that cursing publicly and disobeying police is beyond his character, and claim that these charges are fabricated.

Aslan earned his law degree from Syracuse University a few weeks before his detainment.  On June 11th, Syracuse University College of Law released a letter of support for Aslan. The statement acknowledges him as “a person of integrity who has deep respect for human rights, civil society, and the rule of law.” It calls for a “transparent, open legal process in his case, if not his immediate and safe release.” Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie has carried a copy of this letter to the United States Department of State.

The College of Law encourages the community to share Aslan’s story on social media platforms and attract attention to his situation. Several faculty members have already shared Aslan’s story with the media. The letter states, “We will continue to follow this situation and pledge to provide Emin and his family our support.”

For more information, please see:

Turan – Emin Aslan Told About Interrogations in MDCOC – 8 June 2018

VOA – Graduate of US Law School Arrested in Azerbaijan – 7 June 2018

Human Rights Watch – Ruthlessly Silenced in Bahrain: Daily Brief – 5 June 2018

Recent Syracuse Law graduate, Emin Aslan, detained in Azerbaijan

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Executive Director

Emin Aslan is a human rights lawyer and native of Azerbaijan. He returned home on May 30th after completing his graduate education at Syracuse University College of Law.  After being in the country for only four days, Aslan was detained by police.

Emin Aslan with his fiancé, Nura. Image by Emin Aslan.

Aslan was in a cafe with his fiancé when he was approached by plain-clothed police officers. He was put in a car by a unit of the country’s interior ministry that purportedly deals with organized crime, and his whereabouts were unknown for more than twelve hours.

The next day, the Department for Combating Organized Crime confirmed with lawyer Elchin Sadigov that it was holding Aslan, but Sadigov was not allowed to see him. That day, Aslan was accused of “disobeying police” in local court and sentenced to a thirty day administrative detention. However, his family and friends report that Aslan fully cooperated with police so the real reason for his detention is unknown.

Aslan holds an undergraduate degree in law from Baku State University and LLM degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He has worked with a number of non-governmental organizations both in Azerbaijan and elsewhere. Also, he has worked on a range of cases for the European Court of Human Rights including freedom to assembly, torture, election, freedom of speech and others.

Outside of his work as a lawyer, Aslan has written for several Azerbaijani publications on democracy, human rights, culture and history. He has previous affiliations with Human Rights House in Tbilisi, American Bar Association, Media Rights Institute, as well as the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

Additionally, Aslan founded the platform “Thinking Citizen Lab” in Georgia in 2016. This initiative focused on alternative education targeting ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Georgia and served as an intellectual and cultural platform.

Although Aslan will remain in police custody for the next thirty days, the sentence of administrative detention left his family with some hope that he will be released at the end of his term.

For more information, please see:

Global Voices – Freedom abroad, fear at home: Azerbaijani human rights lawyer detained for 30 days – 5 June 2018

Syracuse – Recent SU law grad, human rights lawyer ‘abducted’ by Azerbaijan police, groups say – 5 June 2018 

Suicide Bombing Kills Several in Afghanistan

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KABUL, Afghanistan – As part preparing for upcoming elections in Afghanistan this October, the government has set up voter registration centers across the country.  On 22 April as people lined up outside a center in Dasht-i-Barchineighborhood of Kabul, a pedestrian walked into the crowd and detonated a bomb.

Shattered window of voter registration center in Kabul. Photo courtesy of Rahmat Gul.

The Islamic state claimed responsibility for this attack.  Their website said that the attack was aimed toward ‘apostate’ Shiites.  This neighborhood is mainly Shiite Hazara, a minority that has been frequently targeted by the Islamic State.

Local buildings and cars were also destroyed.  Voter registration cards and personal identification documents scattered the street. At least 57 people were killed in the attack.  Another 119 are wounded.  Women, children, and young students are part of those killed.  This is considered to be one of the deadliest attack this year, and the deadliest attack on election preparations so far.

Residents of the area said that they were still determined to register to vote.  President Ashraf Ghani said of the attacks that they will “never weaken the resolve and will of our people for wider participation in the democratic process.”

The government closed two other registration centers in Kabul as well as stationed police patrols in Dasht-i-Barchi and the surrounding areas.

For more information please visit:

Washington Post – At least 57 Afghans killed in Kabul suicide bombing, health officials say– 22 April 2018

Reuters – Blast at election center in Afghan capital kills more than 50 – 22 April 2018

NPR – Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens At Voting Center In Afghanistan – 22 April 2018

 

Armenian Government Arrests Protesters

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YEREVAN, Armenia –  Protests erupted in Armenia after 2 government appointments were announced.

Protesters gather in the main square of Yerevan. Photo Courtesy of Artyom Geodakyan.

The previous president, Serzh Sarkisian, second term ended on 9 April 2018.  Yet, the Parliament elected him Prime Minister just 8 days later, elongating his time in power.  The vote was 76 to 17 with no abstentions.  Parliament also elected Armen Sarkisian, who Serzh Sarkisian endorsed, as the new President.

People have been gathering in the capital city of Yerevan over the past few days to protest this change in power.  Crowds have been so large that traffic has been blocked and the Those there were waving Armenian flags and shouting “Armenia without Serzh.”  The protest leader Nikol Pashinian, an opponent Parliament member, said, “Sarkisian lacks legitimacy and has earned the hatred of Armenians.”

The protests have been mainly peaceful; however, olice warned that the protests were illegal and that they would be “discontinued.”  On 16 April, the demonstrators clashed with the police.  Forty-six people were injured, including 6 policemen.

On 18 April police detained 87 demonstrators.  Only 30 were held on administrative charges such as “holding rallies in violation of the established procedures,” or “participation in mass riots.”  The rest were detained as witness in ongoing investigations about the protests.

Under Armenian Law, witnesses can be detained for interrogation if they don’t respond to a summons to appear. Additionally, they can only be detained for three hours without be recorded or released.  In the case of the arrests made during the protests, many people were held up to 9 hours.

For more information please visit:

 Human Rights Watch – Police in Armenia Detain Dozens of Demonstrators – 19 April 2018

Voice of America – Tens Of Thousands Protest In Yerevan, Other Armenian Cities Against Sarkisian As New Prime Minister – 17 April 2018

AlJazeera – Why are Armenians protesting against the new prime minister? – 19 April 2018

Chilean students and teachers march against Pinera administration

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – On Thursday, thousands of students and teachers held a massive demonstration in Chile. They gathered to denounce profit-making in higher education under President Sebastian Pinera’s administration.

Demonstrators take part in protest in Santiago, Chile. Image Courtesy of Rodrigo Garrido.

Organizers estimated around 120,000 participants in the demonstration along central Alameda Avenue in Santiago. Similar protests took place in other main cities of Chile such as Coquimbo, Valparaiso, and Temuco. The march was called by the National Confederation of Students of Chile (Confech) and was the first major protest under the month-old administration of conservative President Pinera. They demanded an end of profit-making, student debts, and sexism in higher education.

This protest follows a recent decision by the country’s constitutional court to overturn a law that prohibited for-profit companies from controlling universities. While profit-making from higher education is illegal, critics have long claimed that some companies that operate universities have found ways to exploit loopholes in the law. These companies find ways to turn a profit without re-investing the money in reduced tuition or improved education.

Young people consider higher education a business that is putting them and their families in debt. One spokeswoman for the students, Sandra Beltrami, said “the demands of the student movement are still valid and remain the same. We want to be in the classrooms, we want to have classes, we want to study a career in order to be someone in life and have a profession like many people in this country, and we cannot do it because there is still profit in Chile.”

Students and teachers marched through downtown Santiago and made their point by banging drums, toting banners, and sometimes throwing rocks and blocking traffic. There were small confrontations with police who occasionally used tear gas to disperse protesters.

President Pinera is a conservative billionaire who served a term as president from 2010 and 2014. His first term was marred by massive student protests seeking an education overhaul. Earlier in the week, President Pinera sent a bill to Chile’s Congress to increase public financing for technical colleges. In a move that many thought was intended to defuse tension with students, he promised that access to free education was “here to stay.”

Higher education was free in the country until 1981 when Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship pave the way for the development of private universities with no constraints on tuition fees. Now, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that Chile has the fourth-most-expensive university system in the world.

For more information, please see:

Sputnik – Chilean Students March Against Unfair Education – 20 April 2018

FMT News – Chile’s students launch first protest under Pinera administration – 20 April 2018

The Santiago Times – Pinera administration faces first student march in Chile – 19 April 2018

Telesur – Over 120,000 Chilean Students March Against Profits and Sexism – 19 April 2018

Democracy Now – Chile: Massive Student Mobilization Protests Privatization of Education – 20 April 2018