More information about Azerbaijan is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed below:
- Human Rights Country Report
The Azerbaijani constitution provides for a republic with a presidential form of government. Legislative authority is vested in the Milli Mejlis (National Assembly). The presidency is the predominant branch of government, exceeding the judiciary and legislature. The election observation mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that the April 11 presidential election took place within a restrictive political environment and under a legal framework that curtailed fundamental rights and freedoms, which are prerequisites for genuine democratic elections. National Assembly elections in 2015 could not be fully assessed due to the absence of an OSCE election observation mission, but independent observers alleged numerous irregularities throughout the country.
- International Religious Freedom Report
The constitution stipulates the separation of state and religion and equality of all religions. It also protects the right of individuals to express their religious beliefs and practice religious rituals, provided these do not violate public order or public morality. The law prohibits the government from interfering in religious activities, but it also states the government and citizens have a responsibility to combat “religious extremism” and “radicalism.” The law specifies the government may dissolve religious organizations if they cause racial, national, religious, or social animosity; proselytize in a way that “degrades human dignity”; or hinder secular education. Following a July attack on the then head of the city of Ganja Executive Committee, security forces killed five and arrested more than 60 individuals whom authorities said were part of a Shia “extremist conspiracy” involving at least some members of the Muslim Unity Movement. Local human rights groups and others stated that the government continued to physically abuse, arrest, and imprison religious activists. The government had reportedly imprisoned 68 religious activists at the end of the year, compared with 80 in 2017. Authorities detained, fined, or warned numerous individuals for holding unauthorized religious meetings. According to religious groups, the government continued to deny or delay registration to minority religious groups it considered “nontraditional,” disrupting their religious services and fining participants. Groups previously registered but which authorities required to reregister continued to face obstacles in doing so. Authorities permitted some of these groups to operate freely, but others reported difficulties in trying to practice their faith. The government continued to control the importation, distribution, and sale of religious materials. The courts fined numerous individuals for the unauthorized sale or distribution of religious materials, although some individuals had their fines revoked on appeal. The government sponsored events throughout the country to promote religious tolerance and combat what it considered religious extremism.
- Trafficking in Persons Report
The Government of Azerbaijan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included identifying more victims and providing thorough victim assistance at the government-run trafficking shelter and victim assistance center. The government also increased awareness campaigns for Azerbaijani migrants traveling abroad, and the anti-trafficking police unit hired an experienced attorney with a firm understanding of victim-centered approaches. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Prosecution efforts decreased, with courts issuing suspended sentences for nearly all convicted traffickers. The credibility of the Anti-Trafficking Department (ATD) was diminished by credible reports of its arbitrary detention and physical coercion of a confession from a minor; and the government did not regularly screen vulnerable populations and lacked proactive identification efforts, particularly for Azerbaijani victims of internal trafficking. As a result, the government disincentivized cooperation with law enforcement and may have penalized victims due to inadequate identification. The government did not fund NGO-run shelters despite relying heavily on their victim support and reintegration services. Some local officials mobilized and forced some public-sector employees to participate in the autumn cotton harvest. Therefore Azerbaijan was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.