The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issues recommendations to Azerbaijan

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) during the 107th session in August 2022 considered the state report of Azerbaijan and alternative materials submitted by representatives of civil society, and expressed concern about the condition of ethnic minorities and civil society in the country in its recommendations.

While noting the efforts of the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure accountability for certain violations committed during the period of active hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the efforts to investigate those violations, the Committee expressed its deep concern at the serious human rights violations committed during the hostilities in 2020 and later by the Azerbaijani armed forces against prisoners of war and other protected persons of Armenian origin. These violations included extrajudicial executions, tortures, destruction of homes, schools and other civilian objects. The experts pointed to the inadmissibility of the destruction and damaging of the objects of Armenian cultural heritage, including churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries, and called for an investigation into these violations. It is also unacceptable to incite racial hatred and promote racist stereotypes against persons of Armenian nationality or ethnicity, including by public figures and government officials.

The Committee also noted the lack of comprehensive statistics on the demographic composition of the population, disaggregated by ethnicity or national origin, and recommended the authorities to collect and provide the Committee with reliable, up-to-date and complete statistics, including data on ethnic self-identification.

The Committee expressed concern about the lack of detailed information on the representation of ethnic minorities, and especially women, in the public sector, elected bodies, in high positions, and recommended that the authorities take measures to ensure fair and equal representation of ethnic minorities, including women, in government and public administration.

The CERD experts recommended that the Azerbaijani authorities develop and adopt legislative and policy measures, based on effective and constructive consultations with ethnic minorities and civil society organizations, to protect and preserve ethnic minority languages, including measures to increase access to mother tongue education in schools for children belonging to ethnic minorities. Such a recommendation was given to the Azerbaijani authorities in view of the reduction in teaching hours for national minorities’ languages ​​in school curricula, as well as the lack of teaching staff and financial resources for teaching these languages at schools and a necessity to provide schools with textbooks.

In its recommendations, CERD paid particular attention to the situation of the Roma and the Dom communities. Members of the Committee expressed concern about stigmatization, harassment and discrimination against Roma and Dom people, their vulnerable economic situation (extreme poverty, high unemployment), low level of education among children. They noted that the Roma and the Dom systematically face obstacles in obtaining identity documents and in accessing health care. The Committee recommended the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive policy to combat structural discrimination of these communities, ensure their access to education, employment, healthcare and housing, as well as ensure that all members of the Roma and the Dom communities are issued identity documents. The Committee also recommended that the authorities take immediate legislative action against racial profiling of the Roma and the Dom and include statistics on their communities and information on their economic, social and cultural situation in their next periodic report.

The Committee expressed concern at reports that the authorities had denied registration to numerous new civil society organizations, including those protecting the rights of ethnic minorities, and recommended that the authorities take measures, including legislative ones, to ensure the smooth functioning of civil society organizations, in particular by simplifying the procedure of registration of public organizations.

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