• Azerbaijan hosted the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, casting an international spotlight on the government’s deteriorating human rights record. The atmosphere for political activists and independent and pro-opposition journalists grew acutely hostile. Authorities used imprisonment as a tool for political retribution and forcibly dispersed a number of peaceful demonstrations, indiscriminately arresting activists and passersby. Restrictions on freedom of religion and the prosecution of unregistered religious groups continued. The government intensified its urban renewal campaign in the capital Baku, forcibly evicting thousands of families and illegally demolishing homes.

  • The Baku skyline at night.
    Azerbaijani authorities on March 30, 2015, refused to allow a Human Rights Watch researcher to enter the country. The senior South Caucasus researcher, Giorgi Gogia, was planning to attend the trials of two Azerbaijani human rights defenders who were arrested on bogus charges and have been behind bars awaiting trial.