[JURIST] A court in Azerbaijan [official website] on Thursday upheld the conviction and detention of top human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev. Aliyev was arrested in 2011 on charges including illegal commercial activity, tax evasion and abuse of power. Earlier this month he was sentenced [BBC report] to three months pre-trial detention. Aliyev's lawyer released a statement [text, PDF], saying, "his detention was connected with his activity as human rights defender, and the purpose of this is to silence him down, based on a political instruction from above." Charges have also been brought against other activists in the recent past.
Recently Azerbaijan has come under heavy criticism for its treatment of government critics--particularly journalists. In April the Council of Europe [official website] released [JURIST report] Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks's observations on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan revealing human rights issues including: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and the right to property. Earlier this month Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [advocacy websites] urged [JURIST report] Azerbaijani authorities to conduct an investigation into the violent attack by police and security personnel against journalist Idrak Abbasov. In May 2011 journalism rights group Reporters Without Borders's (RSF) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] its annual list of predators of press freedom, which included the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev. In April 2011 the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials]. The reports cited many of the same countries and organizations [JURIST report] as the RSF for violating freedom of the press, including Azerbaijan. RSF's 2010 report [JURIST report] also listed many of the same offenders. The country's treatment of property rights have also prompted criticism. Legal commentators have argued [JURIST op-ed] that Azerbaijan's ineffective laws, distrust in the courts and a lack of enforcement protocol are to blame for the current state of property rights in the country.