Dozens of LGBT People Arrested and Detained in Azerbaijan

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BAKU, Azerbaijan – Dozens of gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku have been detained and sentenced to jail this month.

People Gather in Support of LGBT Community in Madrid, Spain. Photo Courtesy of CBC News.

Those arrested have been sentenced to up to thirty days in jail. They are also being demanded to provide names and addresses of gay and transgender acquaintances.

The detainees have been subjected to beatings and medical examinations, according to the Civil Rights Defenders, a human rights group based out of Sweden. Transgender women have been forced to have their heads shaved.

Azerbaijan government officials claim that the arrests are part of a crackdown on the illegal sex trade in Baku, but Samed Rahumli, a lawyer who is assisting the victims, said the police “targeted homosexuals in general, not prostitutes as they have claimed.”

Rahumli reported that those “detained were subjected to inhuman treatment and torture. Their heads were shaved, some were electroshocked.”

In some instances, police posed online as gay or transgender people looking for dates.

One victim, who identified himself as Hasan, reported that police claimed he was a sex worker, beat him and demanded he provided information pertaining to his alleged clients.

According to activists, the reasoning provided by the government is being used as a pretext for persecution of the LGBT community.

The detainees were being held under “administrative detention”, which is a legal practice in Azerbaijan that allows for the bypass of public hearing prior to sentencing.

A survey conducted in 2016 by a human rights organization ranked Azerbaijan as the worst of 49 European counties in which to be gay.

International organization Human Rights Watch reported that men have been outed to their families and that these relatives have been encouraged to carry out honor killings.

Several victims have been evicted from their apartments as a result of the raids.

The arrests are reminiscent of the detainment and torture of gay men in Chechnya earlier this year. In some cases there, victims were killed.

A spokesman for the country’s interior ministry said “these raids are not against all sexual minorities. The arrested are people who demonstratively show a lack of respect for those around them, annoy citizens with their behaviour, and also those whom police or health authorities believe to be carriers of infectious diseases.”

Evelyne Paradis, European executive director of the International Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, called “for the immediate release of anyone still in detention.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Dozens of LGBT People Detained in Azerbaijan Capital – 29 September 2017

CBC News – Azerbaijan Arresting More LBGT People ‘day by day’, Activist Says 30 September 2017

The Guardian – Outcry as Azerbaijan Police Launch Crackdown on LGBT Community – 28 September 2017

Independent – Mass Arrests of LGBT People in Azerbaijan Condemned by Human Rights Groups – 28 September 2017

NBC News – Dozens of LGBTQ Reportedly Arrested in Azerbaijan – 26 September 2017

New York Times – Azerbaijan Detains Dozens of Gay and Transgender People – 29 September 2017

Washington Post – Dozens of LGBT People Detained in Azerbaijan Capital – 29 September 2017

Venezuelan President will not address UN after shocking human rights report

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS,Venezuela – After a scathing human rights report by the UN, Venezuelan President Maduro cancels plans to address the UN Human Rights Council on September 11, 2017. Maduro will send newly-appointed foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, in his place to address the Council on its opening day.

Venezuelan President Maduro. Image Courtesy of Venezuelan Analysis.

Many see Maduro’s decision not to speak as a response to the U.N.’s human rights report and increased activism against his policies. The report calls for further investigation and accountability by the Venezuelan government. It also asks the UN Human Rights Council itself to take measures to prevent these human rights violations.

On August 30th, The UN reported extensive human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela. These come in the wake of anti-Government protests as tensions between the Government and the opposition increase. The report indicates a repressive policy with the use of excessive force and arbitrary detention against protesters. The government’s actions toward protesters, led by Maduro, point to “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations.”

The President, as one of the 47 current member states, planned to speak at this three-week UN Human Rights Council session. He last addressed this audience in November 2015. The Council does not invite dignitaries to participate in meetings, but it is protocol to honor member states’ requests to speak.

Although he was granted speaking time, a Council spokesman released a statement that Maduro would not address the council without giving a specific explanation.

The U.N. report paints a disturbing picture of the country. Reliable sources estimate the number of people detained since the beginning of April to be 5,000, including 410 children. Many detained victims have described it as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Other detainees, both men and women, also reported threats of sexual violence and death perpetrated by the guards. Conditions in detention centers are alarming with accounts of over-crowded cells, rat and insect infestations, and lack of drinking water and bathroom facilities. The U.N. found these victims’ accounts to be consistent and corroborated by medical records.

President Maduro does not allow the U.N. investigation to enter the country, so this report is based on phone interviews with victims, families, NGOs, journalists, lawyers, first-responders and doctors. There are reported attacks to journalists and media workers to stop them from covering the demonstrations. These demonstrators and journalists have been designated “terrorists” and “enemies” by authorities.

Maduro’s spot at the podium was already being criticized. Critics were outraged and did not want to see the UN stage used by a dictator. Days earlier, 12 human rights activists called for an urgent Council meeting to discuss Venezuela’s membership and protest Maduro’s appearance.

For further information, please see:

CNS News – Maduro Cancels Plans to Address UN Human Rights Council; Activists Want Venezuela Expelled – 6 September 2017

Reuters – Venezuelan President Maduro will not go to U.N. rights forum – 5 September 2017

Fox News – UN rips Venezuelan human rights abuses, as government orders opposition leader’s wife to court – 2 September 2017

UN News Centre – Human rights violations indicate repressive policy of Venezuelan authorities – 30 August 2017

Merkel takes stronger stance against Turkey for detaining Germans

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a decisive reaction to Turkey’s arrest of two more German citizens on Friday, September 1st.

The detainees are being held in Turkey on political charges. They join the twelve others who have been imprisoned in Ankara since February.

Chancellor Merkel believes that under the circumstances, it would be inappropriate to “carry out further discussions with Ankara about its participation in a European Union customs union.”

The Turkish government has been working towards becoming a European Union member for several years. As a result of political turmoil starting with the failed coup d’etat in 2016, the country has not succeeded with their bid.

Tensions between Turkey and Germany have been rising since the arrests of human rights activists in February. Deniz Yucel has been held for 200 days in Turkey on charges of “terror propaganda.”

Later, German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and nine others were detained and charged with “committing crimes in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member.”

And in early August, Dogan Akhanli, Turkish-German critic of Turkey’s President Erdogan, was arrested in Spain. It remains unclear on what charges Mr. Akhanli is being held on. German Member of Parliament Volker Beck requested that Mr. Akhanli not be extradited to Turkey.

Other Europeans have been arrested in Turkey over alleged involvement in last year’s failed coup against President Erdogan.

Leaders across Europe have denounced President Erdogan’s actions. Germany has already threatened to place travel and trade restrictions on Turkey if the activists are not released from detainment.

The newest arrests come at a turbulent time in German politics. On September 24th, Germans will go to the polls to either re-elect Chancellor Merkel for a fourth term or to replace her.

President Erdogan earlier in August called on Turkish-German voters to boycott the two main parties in Germany, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. Erdogan also suggested a boycott of the Green Party, believing them to be “enemies of Turkey.”

It remains to be seen what the results of the election will be. But Chancellor Merkel and her main opponent, Martin Schulz, do agree on one thing: suspending talks of Turkey’s EU customs union bid.

“This is a development of dramatic significance,” Mr. Schulz stated at a recent campaign event. “As part of [Erdogan’s] paranoid counter-putsch, he is reaching out for our citizens on the territory of European Union states.”

For more information, please see:

Al-Jazeera – Turkey detains two Germans in relation to Gulen probe – 1 September 2017

Reuters – Germany may ‘rethink’ Turkey ties after two more Germans detained: Merkel – 1 September 2017

CNN – Germany accuses Turkey of arresting 2 more Germans for “political reasons” – 1 September 2017

BBC News – Time to ‘rethink’ turkey relations, says Merkel – 1 September 2017

Reuters – German writer critical of Turkey’s Erdogan arrested in Spain – 19 August 2017

BBC News – Erdogan critic Dogan Akhanli arrested in Spain – 19 August 2017

BBC News – Q&A: Turkey and the EU – 6 October 2004

 

Human Rights Watch Calls for Tunisia to End Activist’s Banishment

By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

NEW YORK, United States – On July 28 Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Tunisian Minister of Justice Béchir Tekkari and Minister of Interior Rafeek Belhaj encouraging the end of Tunisian activist Abdallah Zouari’s exile.

Zouari was convicted on charges of plotting to overthrow the state in a mass trial of the leaders and members of the Islamist Nahdha movement. He was sentenced to eleven years jail time plus five years “complimentary sentence” of post-release “administrative control.” Such administrative detainments are common in Tunisia and are typically executed by local police while the person lives in their own neighborhood or city.

After Zouari’s release from prison in June 2002, he was exiled to the Zarzis area in the southern governorate of Medenine, about 500 km from where his family lives in the capital of Tunisia. Aside from a thirteen- month stint in prison, Zouari has served the additional five year complementary sentence in Zarzis. In June of 2007, when the complementary sentence should have ended, an extra twenty-six months of banishment were added to his sentence without explanation.

 He served both the regular and the “complementary term” of his sentence and at the end of the complementary sentence the local authorities extended his confinement to the village for 26 months without reason on June 5 2007. This extension will run out in less than a week, Human Rights Watch has preemptively asked that Zouari be allowed to go free unless the Tunisian government can show real cause for continued detainment. When Zouari asked the chief of police who explained Zouari’s extended detainment to him, the officer merely said that the orders, “came from above.”

As the end of the 26 month extension is quickly approaching, Human Rights Watch has written a letter demanding that Tunisia show cause for further detainment. While Human Rights Watch did not agree with the legitimacy of the initial sentence, they are even more opposed to the arbitrary continuation of Zouari’s sentence.

For more information please see;

Human Rights Watch – Tunisia: End Activist’s Banishment – 28 July 2009

Media Line – Rights Group Calls for End to Tunisian’s Exile – 28 July 2009

Reuter’s – Alert Net: Tunisia: End Activist’s Banishment – 28 July 2009

Arabic News – Journalist Abdahlla Zouari’s Internal Exile Extended by 26 Months – 12 June 2007