The Nobel Women’s Initiative has sent an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, urging the immediate release of Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus. Leyla Yunus is a prominent Human Rights activist and defender who was arrested on July 30th 2014 in Baku, Azerbaijan. She was charged with a series of crimes, including high treason, espionage, illegal business activities among others.
Human rights activists say Leyla’s arrest is politically motivated, and is part of a general effort to silence human rights defenders. Leyla is still being held in pre-trial custody. Her health has dramatically deteriorated as the Azerbaijani authorities have denied her medical care and hospitalization for diabetes.
The Azerbaijani authorities have been increasing pressure on civil society activists to intimidate and silence them. Leyla Yunus’ arrest came shortly after her outspoken criticism of the government for the arrest of a fellow journalist, Rauf Mirgadirov.
27 August 2014
H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev,
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan
Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 25; (+994) 412 92 28 68
Subject: Immediately release Leyla and Arif Yunus
The Nobel Women’s Initiative calls on the Government of Azerbaijan to immediately and unconditionally release human rights activists and defenders Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus. Leyla was arrested on July 30, 2014 and is in pre-trial detention accused of treason and tax fraud, while her husband has been detained since August 5, 2014. Their health has dramatically deteriorated while in custody and we urge you to immediately transfer her and her husband to a hospital.
The Prosecutor’s office and the prison authorities at the Kurdakhany detention facility have denied Leyla life-sustaining medication for diabetes and kidneys problems. Arif Yunus is in dire need of medical treatment due to his heart condition. The denial of medical care and hospitalization could cause their death or permanent disability. It is the responsibility of the Government of Azerbaijan to provide adequate protection and care.
The Nobel Women’s Initiative is deeply concerned about the failure of the Government of Azerbaijan to respect their international obligations to protect the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly. The arrest of Leyla and Arif Yunus are part of continuous attempts to silence civil society voices through criminal charges, physical assault, harassment, blackmail and other reprisals. Law enforcement officials regularly use torture and other ill-treatment against detained civil society activists.
We call upon the Government of Azerbaijan to immediately refrain from further attacks against civil society and human rights defenders. Azerbaijan must honor its
obligations and respect the international treaties and agreement of which it is a signatory, such as the UNGA Resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a chair of the Committee of the Ministers of the Council of Europe, we expect the Government of Azerbaijan to honor the values of the Council of Europe and to enforce the European Convention of Human Rights.
Leyla and Arif Yunus have been recognized internationally for their work to defend human rights and democracy and to work for disarmament. Their arrest has only heightened international attention to the situation in Azerbaijan. Just as they will continue to speak out for truth and justice, their supporters worldwide will highlight the injustice brought upon them. We urge you to recognize the legitimacy of their work and to release them without delay or conditions to their freedom. Leyla must receive immediate medical attention, including medication and hospitalization. We expect you to take the necessary steps to safeguard their well-being.
Nobel Women’s Initiative – advocating for peace, justice & equality
430-1 Nicholas St.
Ottawa ON K1N7B7
Tel: +1 613 569-8400, ext. 111
Fax: +1 613 691-1419
The Nobel Women’s Initiative is an organization comprised of six women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee & Tawakkol Karman. Nobel Women’s Initiative was created with the vision of helping strengthen work being done in support of women’s rights around the world. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.
For more information:
Director, Media & Communications
Read our statement on the arrest of Leyla and Arif Yunus; Nobel Women’s Initiative, 14th August 2014.
Azerbaijan: Leading Rights Defender Arrested, Human Rights Watch, 5th August 2014.