In May Azerbaijan will host the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. As the eyes of the public and the international community turn to Baku, they will not only be on the performances in the Baku Crystal Hall, the venue hosting the contest. Beyond the glitzy new buildings and shining facades of downtown Baku, the spotlight will also be on the government’s human rights record.
Azerbaijan is a country where journalists and bloggers who write articles critical of the government continue to be arrested, intimidated and jailed on trumped up charges; where a de facto ban on freedom of assembly has existed since the authorities broke up a demonstration by the political opposition in March 2005; and where observers point to the consolidation of political and economic power among elites as breeding high-level corruption. Whilst Azerbaijan invests in construction and beautification projects, experts have found that the forced evictions of residents without due process or fair compensation, including for construction around the arena which will host Eurovision, violate property rights and the rule of law.
Azerbaijan has signed up to European standards as a member of Council of Europe and is an ENP partner. Yet in recent years the country – flush with oil money – has seen an increase in human rights abuses. Baku has shown increasing self-confidence in the face of international criticism, whilst European governments, prizing energy cooperation, have been reluctant to speak out about Azerbaijan’s rights abuses. Against this background, there are doubts that Azerbaijan’s Eurovision extends beyond the prestige associated with the song contest and energy cooperation with the EU, despite the standards to which the country has committed itself.
At this roundtable co-hosted by Human Rights Watch, Article 19, European Stability Initiative, Open Society Foundations and Index on Censorship, activists and experts from Azerbaijan will discuss Azerbaijan’s Euro-vision, both for the song contest and beyond, and highlight major human rights challenges the government should address as it prepares to take the international stage. They will also touch on the role the EU can play in ensuring that Azerbaijan makes the most of its opportunity to move closer to European standards.
- Khadija Ismayilova, journalist, RFE/RL Azerbaijan
- Vugar Gojayev, director, Human Rights House, Azerbaijan
- Parvana Persiani, blogger and social media activist
The discussion will be moderated by Jacqueline Hale, Senior Policy Analyst, OSI-Brussels.
Room Luxembourg, Science Atrium
Rue de la Science 14b,