08 August 2014

ICBL-CMC Calls for Immediate Release of Leyla and Arif Yunus Arrested by Azerbaijani Authorities

 Leyla Yunus 180X180(8 August) The International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) joins partners from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch the Human Rights House Network, and the South Caucus Network of Human Rights Defenders, in calling on the Azerbaijani authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of renowned human rights advocate and ICBL-CMC campaign member Leyla Yunus arrested on 30 July, 2014, and her husband Arif Yunus, arrested on 5 August.

Leyla Yunus is the Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, a human rights group formed in 1995 that has focused on combating politically motivated prosecutions, corruption, violence against women, and unlawful house evictions, and a recipient of France’s prestigious Legion of Honor award.

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Leyla Yunus receiving France's prestigious Legion of Honor Award

From 1999-2007, Leyla and her husband, Arif, contributed to the Landmine Monitor publication and they have since remained a strong supporter of the ICBL in addition to their broader human rights work.

According to her husband, Leyla was arrested by the Grave Crimes Investigation Unit of the General Prosecutor’s Office while on her way to a conference and charged with treason, fraud and fiscal evasion among other charges. Leyla is being held under 3-month pre-trial detention,  while Arif, first under house arrest, has now been detained as well.

“We are particularly worried for Leyla’s health. She suffers from diabetes and needs appropriate treatment and attention which she does not appear to be receiving at this point in detention,” said ICBL-CMC Executive Director Sylvie Brigot-Vilain. “We fear that her condition could rapidly deteriorate and call for her immediate release, as well as the release of her husband Arif, whose health is also extremely fragile.”

According to ICBL member Human Rights Watch, “The context leading up to these recent charges, including the harassment they have endured over the past four months, make it clear that the charges against Leyla and Arif Yunus are bogus and intended to silence them,” said Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia. “The authorities should immediately end this campaign of intimidation against Azerbaijan’s leading human rights defenders and allow them to work unimpeded.”

The Council of Europe has also expressed deep concern over the arrest and detention of Leyla Yunus and her husband.