Europe

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 

Pope Francis Apologizes for ‘Grave Errors’ Made in Chile Sex Abuse Case

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

VATICAN CITY – After admitting “grave errors” in judgment concerning Chile’s sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis has invited three survivors to meet with him at the end of April.

Pope Francis Arrives in St. Peter’s Square on April 11th. Photo courtesy of Andrew Medichini.

The invitation comes after public outcry following the Pope’s visit to Chile in January and his defense of Bishop Juan Barros following accusations that Barros ignored sexual abuses committed by Rev. Fernando Karadima.

Sixty-four victims testified that Bishop Juan Barros had witnessed and ignored abuses suffered at the hands of Karadima.

During his visit to Chile in January, Francis accused Karadima’s victims of trying to assassinate Barros’ character.

After public outcry, Francis ordered Archbishop Charles Scicluna to investigate the scandal.

For decades, the Catholic church has been rocked by scandals involving thousands of priests accused of abusing countless more children.

In a letter to the public, Pope Francis apologized for his “grave errors in judgment” and blamed a lack of “truthful and balanced information” for his initial misgivings. He thanked the sixty-four individuals who testified against Barros and praised their courage to come forward and bare the “wounds of their souls.”

Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the survivors invited to the Vatican to meet with the Pope, hopes that the meetings will bring attention to survivors of sex abuse in the church worldwide.

Barros’ three main accusers plan to continue their fight “until zero tolerance about abuse and cover-up in the church becomes a reality,” they said in a statement.

“It’s about the thousands of survivors who have gone through horrible things, who have been disrespected, discredited. That culture has to change,” said Cruz. “It has to be about every survivor. I hope that this is a sign that this will not be the norm.”

A research organization called BishopAccountability, which tracks clergy abuses around the world, called Francis’ actions “long overdue but welcome.” Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the organization, says that the decades-long pattern of abuses can only be thwarted by major systemic reform.

In his letter, Francis called for an emergency meeting with Chile’s bishops to discuss the scandal.

“From now on I ask forgiveness of all those I offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks,”Francis said.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Three Church sex Abuse Survivors to Meet With Pope – 13 April 2018

Huffington Post – Abuse Survivors Demand Concrete Action After Pope Admits his ‘Serious Errors’ – 13 April 2018

U.S. News and World Report – Chile Victims Meet Pope April 28-29 at Vatican – 13 April 2018

The Washington Post – Pope Admits he Made ‘Grave Errors’ in Chile sex Abuse Case – 11 April 2018

Viktor Orban: ‘Significant Changes’ can be Expected in Hungary

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Viktor Orban has just won re-election in Hungary, and wants the nation to know that “significant changes and modifications can be expected.”

Viktor Orban addressing a crowd in Budapest. Photo courtesy of Tamas Kovacs.

Orban’s party now has a supermajority of seats in Hungary’s parliament, having won 134 of the 199 seats in the national assembly.

Orban led his campaign on an anti-immigration platform. As the incumbent Prime Minister, Orban has employed various tactics in order to gain public support.

His influence has even found its way into school textbooks. One book espouses Orban’s belief that refugees pose a threat to Hungary, stating that “it can be problematic for different cultures to coexist.”

Orban’s tactics have been a point of contention in the European Union. As part of his campaign for re-election, he pledged to tighten Hungary’s borders and prevent migrants from getting into the country.

Orban believes that the European Union, the United Nations, and philanthropist George Soros intend to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country.”

As part of his efforts to prevent migrants from coming into the country, Orban supports the “Stop Soros” bill that would prevent civic workers in their efforts to assist and support asylum seekers. If the bill is passed, civic groups would be forced to obtain government permits. In addition, they would not be able to operate within five miles of Hungary’s borders, which is typically where migrants file claims seeking admission into the country.

Orban is outspoken in his belief that Hungary’s borders should not be opened to migrants. He once said to a Hungarian television station: “We will never allow Hungary to become a target country for immigrants. We do not want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary.”

Between 2015 and 2016, a wave of over one million migrants arrived in Europe. During that time, the European Commission proposed compulsory quotas be enacted to distribute the asylum-seekers to European Union member nations. Orban vehemently opposed the proposal, and in June of 2015 erected a barrier fence along the southern border of Hungary.

During his campaign, Orban refused to speak to opponents or the media, instead choosing to limit his appearances to rallies for is supporters.

Opponents of Orban believe that he is weakening the democratic system and attempting to concentrate too much power in too few hands. He has responded to these observations with assurances that “Hungary continues to stand on constitutional foundations. Within those, we will do everything that serves the interests of the Hungarian people.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – The man who Thinks Europe has Been Invaded –  6 April 2018

BBC News – Viktor Orban Victory in Hungary: German Minister Warns EU – 9 April 2018

The New York Times – How Viktor Orban Bends Hungarian Society to His Will – 27 March 2018

Time – Hungary’s Far Right Leader Is Going Nowhere—and Europe Should Be Worried – 11 April 2018

The Washington Post – Hungary’s Viktor Orban to Make ‘Significant Changes’ in Govt – 10 April 2018

Thousands Again Protest ‘Stop Abortion’ Bill in Poland

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland – On March 23rd, thousands of protesters across the Poland marched in response to plans to fortify country’s already strict abortion laws.

Demonstrators in Warsaw Protest New ‘Stop Abortion’ Legislation. Photo courtesy of Marcin Obara.

A new bill in parliament intends to ban abortions that are performed as a result of fetal abnormalities, one of the few instances in which an abortion is currently allowed in the country.

The “Black Friday” protests were conducted across the country as a result of the proposal.

Abortion is currently banned for the most part in Poland. Currently, abortions are allowed in cases of rape, incest, when there is serious threat to the mother’s health or if the fetus has been found to have severe, irreversible damage.

However, illegal abortions are rampant in Poland. For every 1,000 to 2,000 legal abortions there are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 illegal ones.

A letter from over 200 groups stressed that “This bill would further hinder women, particularly those from low-income and rural communities, from accessing safe abortion care….and place women’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights obligations.”

Europe’s human rights watchdog, The Council of Europe, is urging lawmakers to reject the bill, stressing that violates Poland’s human rights commitments.

Proponents of the bill say that 96% of abortions performed in 2016 were on fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, supports the bill and has promised to sign it if it is approved by parliament.

A bill drafted in 2016 proposed to ban all abortions, even those where it was essentially guaranteed that the fetus would die.  The bill also would have limited access to prenatal care as well as contraception. This proposal was rejected after it initiated nationwide demonstrations, with more than 150,000 Polish citizens mobilizing across the country to oppose it.

The same women’s groups that protested in 2016 came back out in force to oppose the latest legislation which is entitled “Stop Abortion.”

Droves of people took to the streets with signs reading “Girl Power” and “My body, my choice.”

Critics of the bill fear that if already strict abortion laws are made even more stringent, women will travel to other countries to obtain abortions or resort to unsafe methods, putting their lives at risk.

Draginja Nadazdin, director or Amnesty International, spoke on the matter, saying “Women in Poland are strong and determined and we will defeat this threat. But we should not have to fight our own members of parliament to get our basic rights.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Poland Abortion: Protests Against Bill Imposing new Limits – 26 March 2018

CNN – Poles March Against Abortion ban, Again. – 23 March 2018

Newsweek – Black Friday Protests Against ‘Stop Abortion’ Bill Planned in Poland – 23 March 2018

New York Times – Polish Women Protest Proposed Abortion Ban (Again) – 23 March 2018