Statement on the Release of Ilgar Mammadov in Azerbaijan
13 August 2018
Staff of the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) welcome the release today of NRGI advisory council member Ilgar Mammadov, who had been unjustly imprisoned in his native Azerbaijan for more than five years. While any incarceration was an undeserved travesty, and he has been barred from leaving the country, his release hopefully portends an improvement for accountability, dialogue and civic freedoms in the oil-rich country, where scores more political prisonersremain incarcerated.
Freedom of speech and the ability to question government are crucial for good governance overall—and especially in countries with extractive industries. The European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe have recognized this; advocacy by such institutions for the release of prisoners like Ilgar is essential and welcome. International organizations such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the Open Government Partnership have also called attention to the oppression of civil society actors in Azerbaijan. (EITI even moved to suspend Azerbaijan, which then withdrew from the initiative.)
Azerbaijan is just one of many resource-rich countries where authorities have detained or intimidated critics. Last month authorities in Niger releasedAli Idrissa, another citizen questioning his government; many other activists there remain in jail.
In light of these challenges, NRGI will continue its work on civic space in resource-rich countries.