EHRAC appeals to INTERPOL to prevent arrest of Leyla and Arif Yunus

12 June 2017

Leyla and Arif Yunus. Credit: “Doubling Down on Repression” (People in Need)

On 12 June 2017, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC, based at Middlesex University) filed a request with INTERPOL (the International Police Organisation) to inquire about the existence of any alerts against Leyla and Arif Yunus by the Azerbaijani Government, which could lead to their arrest, and to take all necessary steps to prevent such a situation in the future.

Leyla and Arif were imprisoned on fabricated charges in August 2015, having been held in pre-trial detention since 30 July 2014 and 5 August 2014 respectively. They were released in late 2015, and now live in the Netherlands, where they received political asylum due to the politically-motivated nature of their prosecution. However the criminal proceedings against them are ongoing in Azerbaijan, and having refused to allow them to participate in the trial via the internet, the Baku Court of Appeals ordered them to be brought to Azerbaijan – forcibly if necessary – for a hearing on 31 May 2017. EHRAC and the Yunuses are concerned that there is a risk that the Government could use the INTERPOL alert system against them in retaliation for their continued human rights activism, which could result in their removal to and detention in Azerbaijan. Any attempt by the Azerbaijani Government to use such alerts against Leyla and Arif would amount to a misuse of INTERPOL systems for political purposes, in violation of its Constitution, as well as its 2014 Refugee Policy.[1]

24 human rights organisations across the world have signed an open letter calling on INTERPOL and all other relevant authorities to prevent the misuse of alerts against Leyla and Arif, recalling the systemic repression of human rights defenders by the Azerbaijani Government since 2014.

[1] The Constitution requires INTERPOL to act ‘within the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and forbids it ‘to engage in any activities of a political, religious, military or racial character’.