| LGBTIs in Azerbaijan released|
by Redaktie in History & Politics , 18 November 2017
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In the past few weeks at least 50 people were imprisoned during raids against the LGBTI community in the former Soviet republic.
Various sources in the region have reported that, in the past few weeks, the police have been targeting and arresting alleged LGBTIs through raids in the capital Baku.
In prison, they are subjected to mistreatment through, among other things, forced medical examinations. They are also fined and forced to hand over information from their mobile phones. It is difficult to say for sure just how many LGBTIs have been picked up, but according to information from the region, ILGA Europe concludes that at least fifty people were arrested in the second half of September.
Evelyne Paradis, director of ILGA Europe, the European LGBTI umbrella organization: “ILGA Europe is deeply concerned about the fate of the victims of these raids. Persecuting people on the basis of their alleged sexual orientation or gender identity is a flagrant violation of the European Charter of Human Rights. Any LGBTIs still in prison should be released immediately, and an independent investigation into these raids is necessary”. Sources in the region emphasize that there is no direct link between persecution of LGBTIs in Azerbaijan and persecution in Chechnya
Early October the Azerbaijan Ministry of the Interior announced that all detainees have been released. Their release follows protests from numerous human rights organizations and from various foreign governments. It is still not clear whether those arrested will be prosecuted at a later date. There is also no reason to believe that the Azerbaijan government campaign against the LGBTI community has ceased.
In a statement on October 3, Human Rights Watch confirmed the persecution of LGBTIs in Azerbaijan. On the basis of talks with victims and their lawyers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has concluded that, since mid-September and on suspected dubious charges, the police have arrested, tortured, and forced victims to provide information about other LGBTIs. HRW has spoken to people who have been interrogated by Bandotdel, the headquarters of the Azerbaijan police unit that tackles organized crime. HRW have reported varying forms of torture including physical violence and the use of electric shocks. Lawyers of those arrested have reported that police have also shaved the heads of transgender women.
A victim told HRW that he was tortured because Bandotdel agents were not satisfied with his answers: “I didn't know what to tell them. Three agents forced me to undress and took me to another room where I was placed on a chair. There were about ten agents in the room. They tortured me with electric shocks for about seven or eight minutes".
The Azerbaijan authorities do not deny these raids. HRW reports that, on October 2, the Public Prosecutor confirmed that 83 people were arrested. The arrests were justified by acting on complaints from citizens regarding violations of public morality and threats to public health.
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