On July 23, 2023, world-renowned economist and scholar Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu of Azerbaijan was arrested. Dr. Ibadoghlu and his wife, Irada Bayramova, were brutally attacked outside Baku, Azerbaijan. Twenty people, dressed in civilian clothes, rammed into the car the couple was driving and proceeded to beat them both publicly. Both were then taken into police custody, with Irada Bayramova released later that day. Since then, the Azerbaijani authorities have charged Dr. Ibadoghlu with a variety of crimes, including counterfeiting money and accused him of working with an organization connected to Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government considers a terrorist. Dr. Ibadoghlu remains in custody with unreliable access to his diabetes medication and limited contact with his lawyer. His current pretrial detention is set to last for four months, with current charges potentially resulting in a maximum of 12 years of prison.
The arrest of Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu is not just the detention of an individual but an attack on Azerbaijan’s already fragile civil society. Dr. Ibadoghlu has been an outspoken critic of the government, particularly in terms of economic policy and corruption. His arrest sends a chilling message to other activists, journalists and NGOs working in Azerbaijan. It serves to silence any opposition to the regime, further undermining the country’s democracy, rule of law, human rights, and freedoms.
The Azerbaijani authorities have a track record of suppressing dissent, harassing and imprisoning journalists, human rights activists, opposition leaders, and civil society representatives. They control the media tightly, making it difficult for voices demanding change to be heard. Sadly, this has become the norm in Azerbaijan with the government cracking down on those who speak up against corruption, politically motivated arrests, and human rights abuses.
Dr. Ibadoghlu’s arrest is not an isolated incident. There is a pattern of behavior by the Azerbaijan government to target individuals who they perceive as a threat to the regime. The international community should call on Azerbaijan to immediately release Dr. Ibadoghlu and ensure that all charges against him and other activists are dropped. The international community should also continue to monitor the situation closely and push for democratic reform, including the guarantee of fundamental human rights, civil liberties, freedom of speech, and the press in Azerbaijan.
It is paramount that Azerbaijan’s allies should condemn the government’s action, and urge them to uphold international human rights laws and standards. Azerbaijan, a member of the Council of Europe, has an obligation to respect human rights and democracy principles as established by the European Court of Human Rights. Azerbaijan must not use their judicial and legal system to propagate their political interests.
Dr. Ibadoghlu’s arrest adds to the long list of individuals who have been targeted by Azerbaijani authorities, in their efforts to silence critical voices. The international community should stand up for the rights of those detained merely for expressing their opinions. Azerbaijan must stop the arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters, journalists, and human rights defenders, investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and bring those responsible to justice. It is paramount that the European Union, Council of Europe, and other international organizations exert pressure on Azerbaijan to respect its commitments to human rights, democratization and the rule of law. We call for the immediate release of Dr. Ibadoghlu and other peaceful civil society activists in Azerbaijan.