STRASBOURG — The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its new report on Azerbaijan. While progress was achieved in areas such as migration legislation and living conditions of historical minorities, other issues give rise to concern, such as the continued use of hate speech, a crackdown on independent civil society and media, prejudice against LGBT people and discrimination against religious minorities.

ECRI expresses concern about a wide ranging crack-down on independent civil society and media. As a result, vulnerable groups can no longer turn to NGOs for assistance in cases of racism, hate speech and discrimination.

“Political leaders, educational institutions and media have continued using hate speech against Armenians; an entire generation of Azerbaijanis has now grown up listening to this hateful rhetoric. Human rights activists working inter alia towards reconciliation with Armenia have been sentenced to heavy prison terms on controversial accusations and there are big concerns that hate speech provisions have been misused against the Talysh minority,” the report reads.

“The authorities should ensure that public officials at all levels refrain from hate speech towards Armenians and create adequate conditions for the development of a diverse and independent civil society,” it continues.

“An entire generation of Azerbaijanis has now grown up listening to constant rhetoric of Armenian aggression. According to a 2012 survey, 91% perceived Armenia as Azerbaijan’s greatest enemy.”

ECRI reiterates its recommendation that the Azerbaijani authorities ensure that public officials at all levels refrain from hate speech towards Armenians.

“Even though no violent hate crime based on ethnic affiliation has been registered in Azerbaijan during the last five years, political leaders, educational institutions and media have continued spreading hate speech. The pardon, release and promotion in 2012 of Ramil Safarov, who had been sentenced in Budapest to life imprisonment for the murder of an Armenian army officer, contributes to a sense of impunity for the perpetrators of racist crime. The report recommends that authorities put an end to the constant, mediatized use of hate speech, and rather promote mutual understanding and confidence,” the report says.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, color, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.

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