Watchdog reports prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan, break-ups of peaceful demonstrations in Armenia, thwarted justice in Georgia, war crimes in Ukraine and Russia
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has released its report for 2016. Its overview for the South Caucasus countries is:
At least 14 prisoners of conscience remained in prison in Azerbaijan in 2016. Most human rights organizations forced to suspend their activities in previous years were unable to resume their work. Reprisals against independent journalists and activists persisted. International human rights monitors were denied access to Azerbaijan. Torture and other ill-treatment was widely reported, as well as arbitrary arrests of government critics.
Police used excessive force to suppress largely peaceful demonstrations in the capital, Yerevan, in July. Hundreds of individuals were arbitrarily arrested. Many reported being injured, beaten or otherwise ill-treated during the arrest and while in detention.
Concerns persisted about the lack of judicial independence and about political interference following a series of favourable rulings for the government in high-profile cases. New cases of torture and other ill-treatment by police were reported. Continuing border fencing along the administrative boundary lines of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia had further negative impact on economic and social rights of local residents.
Re other post-soviet countries, Ukraine and Russia saw some of the greatest human rights abuses:
Sporadic low-scale fighting continued in eastern Ukraine with both sides violating the ceasefire agreement. Both the Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatist forces continued to enjoy impunity for violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, such as torture.
Serious human rights violations continued to be reported in the context of security operations in the North Caucasus. People criticizing the authorities in Chechnya faced physical attacks by non-state actors and prosecution, and human rights defenders reporting from the region faced harassment from non-state actors. Russia faced international criticism in relation to allegations of war crimes by its forces in Syria. The International Criminal Court (ICC) continued its preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine, which included crimes committed in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Russia failed to respect the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees.
Amnesty International’s worldwide findings for 2016 are:
– war crimes were committee din at least 23 countries
– 36 countries illegally sent refugees back to a country where their rights were at risk
– 22 countries saw people killed for peacefully standing up for human rights