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Who is Emin Huseynov and what did he do?

Emin Huseynov is a 35-year-old Azerbaijani journalist and chairman of the country’s  leading media rights group, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS). Huseynov, fearing for his life, sought refuge in August 2014, amidst widespread repression of journalists and human rights activists. He had been sheltered in the Swiss embassy in Baku until 12 June 2015 when, with Courage’s assistance, he was able to travel to Bern accompanied by Swiss diplomats.

Courage supported Emin Huseynov’s application for political asylum in Switzerland, which was granted in October 2015.

Why did Emin seek refuge in the Swiss embassy in Baku?

Emin sought refuge in the midst of a crackdown on human rights organisations in August 2014.  After finding himself unable to cross the border to Turkey, Huseynov sought refuge in the Swiss Embassy in Baku. The Embassy was surrounded by plainclothed police, so Huseynov wore a disguise and spoke to officers in broken English to throw them off. According to Foreign Policy, someone from the Swiss Embassy quickly opened a door and let him in before authorities could identify and detain him.

It was not until February 2015 that Emin Huseynov’s presence in the Swiss embassy was acknowledged publicly.

Where is Emin now?

Huseynov is currently in Bern in Switzerland. His application for asylum was approved in October 2015.

The Swiss government allowed Huseynov to travel to the country on a humanitarian visa in June 2015 but it took another four months before Emin was formally granted asylum. However, Human Rights Watch’s Giorgi Gogia told Foreign Policy, “I know that the Swiss government has been negotiating at the highest level possible with Azerbaijan. And I know the Azerbaijan government has been against letting Emin leave.”

What is the situation like for journalists in Azerbaijan?

International human rights groups describe a situation that is difficult and deteriorating. Reliable information is dependent on the work of local organisations, like Emin Husyenov’s IRFS. In 2014, Azerbaijan’s government moved to stop the work of independent NGOs in the country, targeting human rights defenders in particular. Activists, lawyers, journalists and groups like IRFS have had their offices raided, bank accounts frozen and key personnel intimidated and arrested.

What have human rights organisations said about Emin’s case?

The importance of Emin Huseynov’s work is shown by the prominence and variety of the voices that have come forward in his defence. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner and the OSCE’s Representative on the Freedom of the Media quickly condemned the actions of Azerbaijan’s government against the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and other NGOs in August 2014 as systematic and targeted repression.

After Switzerland’s public broadcaster broke the news about Emin Huseynov being held at Swiss embassy in Baku in Feburary 2015, a number of international organisations came forward to call for his continued protection so that the work of the IRFS can continue.

How can I help?

Donating to Emin Huseynov’s defence fund is the best way to tangibly help him today. Emin’s lawyers are negotiating with authorities to secure his safety, and depend on supporters’ help to continue to do so.

Who runs this website?

The site is commissioned by the trustees of Courage to provide information on the threats Emin Huseynov faces, his current situation and what you can do to support him.

What is the Courage Foundation and who runs it?

Courage is a trust, audited by accountants Derek Rothera & Company in the UK, for the purpose of providing legal defense and campaign aid to journalistic sources. It is overseen by an unrenumerated committee of trustees. Emin Huseynov is its fourth recipient. The terms of the fund and its trustees can be obtained from Derek Rothera & Company.