On October 9th, Crude Accountability had the honor of addressing the attendees of the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference, where we highlighted the urgent need to protect civil society in the region. Our director Kate Watters spoke about the worrying trend of shrinking space for civil society, particularly in Azerbaijan, where journalists and activists face increasing pressure and wrongful detention. We also took the opportunity to shed light on the case of our dear colleague Gubad Ibadoghlu, who is unjustly imprisoned for his work exposing corruption in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector.
Azerbaijan’s government has a long history of suppressing free speech and civil society, but the situation has worsened in recent years. Journalists who dare to criticize the government face retaliation in the form of harassment, physical attacks, detention, and even torture. Political opponents are similarly targeted, and the country has an alarmingly high number of political prisoners, often held on trumped-up charges in mockery of due process.
The situation of Gubad Ibadoghlu is perhaps one of the most egregious examples of this trend. As a distinguished scholar and researcher, Dr. Ibadoghlu has spent years investigating corruption in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas industry, a sector notorious for its opacity and lack of accountability. His work has contributed to international efforts to promote transparency and combat corruption, but it has also made him a target of the regime. He was arrested in July 2023 on charges of manufacturing and selling counterfeit money, which are entirely fabricated. His trial was marred by procedural violations and lack of access to legal representation, and he was sentenced to three months in prison.
Unfortunately, Dr. Ibadoghlu’s case is far from unique. Amnesty International has estimated that there are currently over 200 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, with the real number likely much higher. These individuals include journalists, human rights defenders, opposition leaders, and others who have dared to speak out against government abuses. They are often held in squalid conditions, denied medical care and access to their families, and subjected to torture and other forms of mistreatment.
Despite the grim reality facing civil society in Azerbaijan and other countries in the region, Crude Accountability remains committed to fighting for human rights and accountability. Our intervention at the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference was just one small step in this direction, but we believe that every effort counts. We will continue to work tirelessly to hold governments, corporations, and other powerful actors accountable for their actions and ensure that civil society groups have the freedom and resources they need to thrive.
The situation facing civil society in Azerbaijan is deeply concerning, with journalists, activists, and political opponents facing harassment, detention, and mistreatment on a regular basis. Our colleague Gubad Ibadoghlu is just one of many victims of this trend, and it is high time for the international community to take notice and push for change. At Crude Accountability, we remain committed to this cause, and we will do everything in our power to support those working on the front lines of human rights and accountability. Join us in this fight today.