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TITLE:  AZERBAIJAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                           AZERBAIJAN


Azerbaijan is a republic with a presidential form of government.
Heydar Aliyev, a former Communist Party First Secretary of 
Azerbaijan and Soviet Politburo member, assumed presidential 
powers after the 1993 overthrow of his democratically elected 
predecessor, Abulfez Elcibey, and was elected President in 
October 1993.  He and his supporters dominate the Government 
and the 52-member Milli Maclis (National Council), which 
exercises parliamentary powers.

Police and the Ministry of National Security are entrusted with 
internal security.  They were responsible for widespread human 
rights abuses, including beating and detaining persons 
arbitrarily, conducting searches and seizures without warrants, 
and suppressing peaceful demonstrations.

Azerbaijan has a state-controlled economy rich in oil, gas, and 
cotton.  The economy continued to deteriorate in 1994 because 
of the conflict with the Armenians over Nagorno-Karabakh.  The 
Government has not effectively replaced or restored the trade 
links with the rest of the former Soviet Union.

There were widespread human rights abuses in 1994, some of 
which arose out of the continuing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  
Both sides used artillery and rocket fire indiscriminately 
against civilian targets, and Azerbaijanis also mounted air 
attacks against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.  Both sides have 
thus far respected the cease-fire negotiated in May.  The 
Government waged a harsh campaign to suppress the political 
opposition and to censor the press.  Security authorities beat 
detainees and demonstrators and arrested persons arbitrarily.  
While the Government tolerates the existence of independent 
media and political parties, it has demonstrated a disregard 
for the right to freedom of speech, press, assembly, and 
association when it has deemed it in its interest to do so.  
Although harassment of ethnic Armenians outside Nagorno-
Karabakh--by individual Azerbaijanis rather than as deliberate 
government policy--has subsided considerably, that community 
continues to live in fear and uncertainty.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Extrajudicial Killing

On the night of September 29, gunmen killed two high-ranking 
Azerbaijani officials:  Afiyaddin Jalilov, Vice Speaker of the 
Parliament, and Shamsi Rahimov, a member of the President's 
staff.  These killings marked a significant increase in the 
level of political violence.  By year's end, the authorities 
had been unsuccessful in discovering the perpetrators of these 
assassinations, as well as of the terrorist bombings that 
claimed several dozen lives in Baku subway and railway stations 
in 1994.  The Azerbaijanis have accused Armenians based in 
Russia of responsibility for the bombing incidents.  According 
to the National Security Ministry, bombing attacks in 1994 on 
rail lines and the Baku subway resulted in 37 deaths and over 
100 wounded.  No group claimed responsibility.

     b.  Disappearance

The practice of taking and exchanging hostages was relatively 
less common than in the early phases of the Nagorno-Karabakh 
conflict.  Both sides have reportedly taken both military 
prisoners and civilian captives.  Private parties have in some 
instances held prisoners of war and civilians and arranged 
ransoms for profit.  A separate practice has been the 
government-to-government exchange of civilian prisoners; such 
official exchanges in 1994, including an exchange in October 
under the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe 
(CSCE) auspices, involved under 40 persons from each side.  
Azerbaijani gangs have ceased their kidnaping of ethnic 
Armenian residents in Baku.  The overwhelming majority of 
ethnic Armenians outside Nagorno-Karabakh have already been 
driven out of the country, and those who do remain by necessity 
maintain a very low profile.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of torture, but supporters of the 
opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front (APF) assert credibly that 
police beat opposition leaders in the course of breaking up 
political demonstrations (see Section 2.b.).

Prisons conditions are grim, and provisions for medical care 
are inadequate.  The International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC) monitors the treatment and conditions of Armenian 
prisoners in Azerbaijani detention centers.  In Nagorno-
Karabakh, the ICRC has visited Azerbaijani prisoners held in 
connection with the conflict in order to monitor their 
treatment and conditions of detention.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Police and security forces regularly detained and arrested 
persons in conjunction with government efforts to restrict 
freedom of the press and opposition political activities (see 
Section 2.a. and 2.b.).  In addition, in another instance of 
arbitrary use of police powers, police on August 13 detained 10 
intellectuals at a Baku teahouse on vague charges of disobeying 
police authority but released them after a few days in 
detention.  Arbitrary detentions occurred in several waves 
during periods of political unrest and demonstrations.  
Estimates of the number detained differ widely, but a total of 
about 200 people may have been detained without charges.  They 
were released after brief periods of detention (under a week in 
most cases).

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Azerbaijan's criminal justice system, including its courts, 
laws, and procedures, follow the former Soviet model.  The 
courts of general jurisdiction may hear criminal, civil, and 
juvenile cases.  District and municipal courts try the 
overwhelming majority of cases, but a Supreme Court tries 
some.  Both may act as the court of first instance, depending 
on the nature and seriousness of the crime.

Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the 
district, municipal, and republic levels and are ultimately 
responsible to the Prosecutor General, appointed by 
Parliament.  Prosecutors and defense attorneys by law have 
equal status before the courts.  In practice, prosecutors still 
are very influential because court proceedings are not 
conducted in an adversarial manner.  Prosecutors direct all 
criminal investigations, which are usually conducted by the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs.  Moreover, the presumption of 
innocence with respect to defendants has not been incorporated 
into the Criminal Code.

Cases at the district court level are tried before a panel 
consisting of one judge and two lay assessors.  Judges 
frequently send cases unlikely to end in convictions back to 
the prosecutor for "additional investigation."  Such cases may 
then be dropped or closed, occasionally without informing the 
court or the defendant.

By law, trials are to be publicly conducted except when 
government secrets are considered at issue.  Defendants may 
confront witnesses and present evidence.  The court appoints an 
attorney for indigent defendants.  Defendants have the right of 
appeal, as do prosecutors.

Judges do not function independently from the other branches of 
government.  The current Government has removed judges 
considered close to the previous Elcibey government.  The 
statutory commitment to public trial also has not always been 
upheld, e.g., in the case of Azerbaijani military officer Arif 
Pashayev.  Pashayev was a prominent APF figure charged with the 
willful loss of military positions in the Karabakh conflict.  
In July police dispersed and beat relatives protesting court 
proceedings.  Several related cases have been pending in the 
courts.  There were about 25 persons in prison on political 
grounds at year's end.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Soviet surveillance apparatus, reorganized as the Ministry 
of National Security, became more active than under the 
previous Elcibey government.  It is widely and credibly 
believed that the Ministry taps telephones, especially those of 
foreigners and prominent political and business figures.  The 
police have periodically raided the offices of opposition press 
and political parties on the grounds of a search for illicit 
weapons.  The post-October emergency legislation, extended in 
December by the legislature until early February 1995, made 
explicit the right to conduct such searches.  The police also 
make periodic sweeps in search of young men evading the draft.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in 1988.  The ethnic 
Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh sought union with 
Armenia until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation 
of independent Armenian and Azerbaijani republics with 
internationally recognized borders.  The demand of the 
Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians later became one for independence 
from Azerbaijan.

By June 1992, ethnic Armenians had expelled all ethnic 
Azerbaijanis from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and had opened a 
corridor to Armenia through the Azerbaijani region of Lachin, 
which had a substantial Kurdish population.  In 1993 they 
captured the province of Kelbacar, which lies between 
Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, as well as large areas 
surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.  They drove out the inhabitants 
and looted and burned the provincial capitals and most of the 
villages of these regions.  The U.N. Security Council condemned 
these offensive actions, including the looting and burning.

Until the May 1994 cease-fire, all parties to the conflict 
engaged in indiscriminate shelling and rocket fire against 
civilian targets, including in both directions along the 
Armenia-Azerbaijan border.  Before the cease-fire, the 
Azerbaijanis also mounted fixed-wing air attacks against 
civilian targets in both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.  All 
parties to the conflict have cut normal trade and 
transportation links to the other sides, causing severe 
hardship to civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and the 
Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan.

After agreeing to a cease-fire in May, the parties maintained 
it throughout the rest of the year.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government severely restricts freedom of speech and press.  
It officially censors the press and subjects newspaper premises 
to searches and raids.  It may close newspapers for 1 month if 
they violate military censorship by publishing information 
contrary to what it believes are the interests of the country.  
Despite warnings to several papers, the Government has not 
exercised this authority.

Official censorship decreased after the state of emergency was 
lifted in September 1993, but its existence remained 
influential in convincing editors to self-censor their copy.  
Police searches and raids were another way of interfering with 
the operations of the press, much of which is affiliated with 
political parties.  For example, in February police temporarily 
seized part of the Azadliq newspaper's premises after weeks of 
repeated unauthorized searches of Azadliq and other newspaper 
premises.  Police conducted similar searches at Azadliq's 
premises on at least one other occasion during 1994.  Both 
incidents involved a search for arms and unspecified subversive 
literature.  The searches were carried out on the authority of 
the district police commander, without judicial involvement.  
Both newspaper offices and their distributors remained subject 
to surprise raids.  For example, authorities raided the 
distributor Gaya in March after a caricature of the Interior 
Minister was published.

After imposing a new state of emergency in early October on 
Gance and Baku, following the political crisis, the Government 
added a third a third level of censorship to the existing 
military and political censors, with immediate and noticeable 
effect on newspaper editorial content.

The number of newspapers available, both in Azerbaijani and 
Russian, remained large, although many suffered economic 
hardship, and some folded or reduced their frequency.  However, 
new papers were also started.  Many opposition newspapers 
continued to publish, including at least five major newspapers 
sympathetic to or officially published by the APF, the Musavat 
Party, and the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the main 
political opposition.  Small sensationalist newspapers 
continued to publish investigative interviews and news items.

The Government controls most radio and television, and the 
opposition has little access to the official electronic media.  
In June the Government closed an independent television 
station, B-M-TI, allegedly for violating government regulations 
but apparently because its owners spoke out against the 
Government's foreign policy.  In an incident in November, the 
director of an independent television-radio company, ANS, was 
beaten at the direction of the head of the state radio-
television entity, and the Baku commandant briefly closed ANS' 
FM radio and television stations.  President Aliyev ordered the 
resumption of ANS broadcasting.

Correct political connections are a prime requisite for those 
seeking new posts in government-controlled institutions, 
including universities.  However, there are several professors 
with tenure who are active in opposition parties.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

While the Government tolerates the existence of political 
parties, it has demonstrated a disregard for the right to 
freedom of peaceful assembly and association when it has deemed 
it in its interest to do so.  The authorities have invoked 
imminent danger to law and order in carrying out such actions 
as the search of APF offices in February, when they allegedly 
discovered arms caches.  The authorities frequently denied 
opposition requests for permits to hold demonstrations.  When 
unauthorized demonstrations were held, police frequently 
suppressed them, using force and causing injuries, as in the 
May 21 demonstrations against the Government's policy toward 
Nagorno-Karabakh and the September 10 protests against both 
foreign and domestic policies.  In the May demonstrations, 
police detained over 200 persons, including 3 Milli Maclis 
deputies, holding some detainees for up to 1 month without 
bringing formal charges and without allowing relatives access.

Associations other than political parties can generally 
function freely.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion.  Members of all faiths practice 
their religions without restrictions, with one important 
exception:  Armenian churches, many vandalized in past years, 
remain closed, and few of the Armenians left in Azerbaijan 
would have felt secure enough to attend them had they been 
open.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Ministry of National Security enforces a longstanding 
restriction zone in the southeast on the Iranian border from 
which all nonresidents are excluded.  The October state of 
emergency restricts access to the Baku region by nonresidents.

The Government officially recognizes freedom of emigration.  
Jewish emigration to Israel continued, although less than 1,000 
emigrated during the first 9 months of 1994.  Some 18,000 
Armenians and part-Armenians, mostly in mixed marriages, remain 
in the country.  The Government stripped many of the remaining 
ethnic Armenians of their official documents for both internal 
and external travel, making it difficult for them to change 
residence or to travel outside Azerbaijan.

In general, low-level officials seeking bribes harass members 
of minorities wishing to emigrate; this is especially the case 
of draft-age men, who are required to obtain documentation from 
several levels of military authorities before they may leave 
for any international travel.  All citizens of Azerbaijan 
wishing to travel abroad must first obtain exit visas or 
official passports from the Government.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the 
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) offices in Baku 
estimate that, as of November 1994, there were 900,000 refugees 
and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan.  These figures 
do not include the 50,000 internally displaced persons caused 
by the hostilities in the spring of 1994.  Close to 500,000 
fled the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian offensives into Azeri-
inhabited areas outside the bounds of Nagorno-Karabakh between 
March and September 1993, joining the 150,000 who fled in 1992 
and the over 200,000 who were expelled from Armenia in 1988-89.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the right to change their government by 
peaceful means.  Heydar Aliyev assumed presidential powers in 
June 1993 after the overthrow of the democratically elected 
president, Abulfez Elcibey, and won the presidential election 
in October 1993.

In theory, the President shares power with the 52-member Milli 
Maclis (National Council) which took over parliamentary powers 
after the 1992 dissolution of the Supreme Soviet.  In fact, 
President Aliyev and his close supporters dominate government 
policy and tolerate little opposition to their views.  
Parliamentary elections are due in 1995.

There were no restrictions on women or minorities participating 
in politics.  Currently, the Education Minister is the only 
woman of ministerial rank.  In the Milli Maclis, there are 3 
women out of 52 representatives, or 6 percent.  Minorities such 
as Lezghis and Talysh formed regional groupings in Parliament 
and published newspapers in their own languages.  There are no 
minority parties, and a separatist Talysh leader faces charges 
of sedition.  There are two Islamic religious parties.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The local human rights community is composed largely of 
individuals rather than well-developed organizations.  Police 
have occasionally harassed such individuals.

The Government has expressed willingness to receive delegations 
from human rights organizations and has met with such 
delegations.  On the other hand, police disrupted a July 
meeting between opposition parties and a visiting delegation 
from Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The 1991 constitutional act of independence prohibits 
discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, or gender.

     Women

Women nominally enjoy the same legal rights as men, including 
the right to participate in all aspects of political, economic, 
and social life.  President Aliyev has appointed women to 
senior government positions.  The most active supporters of the 
APF after Elcibey's overthrow were the women's groups attached 
to it.  In general, women are given extensive opportunities for 
education, work, and political activity.  However, traditional 
social norms continue to restrict women's role in politics and 
the economy.  In general, representation of women is sharply 
lower in higher levels of the work force.  Female 
representation in executive positions in leading businesses is 
even lower--1.5 percent, according to a recent UNICEF study.

Violence against women is a taboo subject in Azerbaijan's 
patriarchal society.  In rural areas, wives have no real 
recourse against violence by their husbands, regardless of the 
law.  Rape is severely punishable, but, especially in rural 
areas, only a small fraction of offenses are prosecuted.  
Police sources indicate that there are about 200 cases annually 
of crimes of violence against women.  These figures probably 
reflect underreporting, especially from conservative rural 
areas.  Crime levels in this field, as in others, have risen 
considerably due to the flood of refugees to the cities and the 
economic crisis of the past few years.

     Children

The 1991 constitutional law on independence guarantees children 
rights on the same footing as adults.  The Criminal Code 
prescribes severe penalties for crimes against children.  The 
Government has attempted to shield families against economic 
hardship in the wake of price liberalization by authorizing 
child subsidies.  The subsidies are far from covering the 
shortfall of family budgets, and the Government does not have 
the financial means to meet its new commitments.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both governmental and societal repression and discrimination 
against ethnic Armenians continued.  Recently, members of the 
Russian community have lodged complaints with the Government as 
well as with the Russian Embassy, alleging official inaction 
concerning some 108 seizures during the past year of apartments 
of Russian speakers by ethnic Azerbaijani displaced persons.

The 18,000 ethnic Armenian and part-Armenians, most of them 
members of mixed families, continued to live in an atmosphere 
of fear and uncertainty.  Kidnapings of ethnic Armenians from 
Baku virtually ceased after early 1994, although scattered 
incidents of harassment have been reported in the press.  There 
are credible reports of denial of medical treatment to ethnic 
Armenians and confiscation of their travel and residence 
documents, and most of those Armenians who lost jobs in 
previous years are still unemployed.  Many are too frightened 
to appear in public.

     People with Disabilities

The law on support for invalids, enacted in late 1993, 
prescribes priority for invalids and the handicapped in 
obtaining housing, as well as discounts for public transport 
and pension supplements.  The Government does not have the 
means in its current financial crisis to make good on its 
commitments.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Azerbaijani labor unions still operate as they did under the 
Soviet system and remain highly dependent on the Government.  
Such progovernment umbrella organizations as the Azerbaijani 
Union of Professional Workers are free to participate in 
international bodies.  There is a legal right to strike.  
Widespread strikes in the crucial oil sector during the summer 
over unpaid back wages led to a backdown of the Government and 
an agreement to raise wages.  In general there are no 
established mechanisms to avoid such wildcat strikes.  Unions 
and workers per se were not the subject of human rights 
abuses.

The 1991 constitutional law grants freedom of association, 
including the right to form labor unions.  However, most 
industrial and white-collar workers are organized into one or 
another subbranch of the Azerbaijani Labor Federation 
(Profsoyuz), run by the Government (which also still owns the 
major industries).  There are no formal restrictions on strikes 
nor provisions for retribution against strikers (under normal 
conditions before the imposition of a state of emergency in 
October).  Unions are free to form federations and to affiliate 
with international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining remained at a rudimentary level.  
Government-appointed boards and directors run the major 
enterprises and set wages.  Unions do not participate in 
determining wage levels.  In a carryover from the Soviet 
system, both management and workers are considered to be 
members of the Profsoyuz.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and is not 
known to be practiced.  Two departments in the prosecutor's 
office (the Department of Implementation of the Labor Code and 
the Department for Oversight Over Minors) enforce the 
prohibition on forced or compulsory labor.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum employment age is 16 years.  Children of 14 are 
allowed to work during vacations with the consent of their 
parents and certification of a physician.  Children of 15 may 
work if the workplace's labor union does not object.  There is 
no explicit restriction on the kinds of work that children aged 
15 may perform with union consent.  The Government (Labor 
Ministry) has primary enforcement responsibility for child 
labor laws.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government set the nationwide administrative minimum wage 
by decree, raising it numerous times because of inflation.  As 
of December, it was less than $1.00 (4,000 manats) per month.  
The recommended wage level to meet basic subsistence needs was 
estimated to be 67,000-75,000 manats, as of November.  It is 
not known how effectively the payment of the minimum wage was 
enforced.

The disruption of trade links with the rest of the former 
Soviet Union has affected employment in many industries.  Idle 
factory workers typically receive a third of their former 
wage.  Under these conditions, even recourse to the extended 
family's "safety net" and outside sources of income make it 
difficult for broad sectors of the population to reach the 
subsistence level.

The legal workweek is 41 hours.  There is a 1-hour lunch break 
per day, plus shorter breaks in the morning and afternoon.

Health and safety standards exist but are by and large ignored 
in the workplace.


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[end of document]

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