Twenty-three international human rights and media freedom watchdogs, including the Reporters Without Borders and the Human Rights Watch, sent a letter to Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili calling on the Government of Georgia to respect its international obligations and, in particular, to conduct a full investigation into Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli’s alleged abduction in Tbilisi on 29 May.
“We write to express our deepest concern about the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli, an exiled Azerbaijani journalist, on 29 May in Tbilisi. He went missing after leaving his colleagues in the evening, before resurfacing the following day in Baku in the custody of Azerbaijan’s state border agency,” the June 6 letter reads.
“This disturbing development does not only expose Afgan Mukhtarli to the possibility of torture and a long prison sentence, but also sets a worrying precedent, threatening the security of dozens of other Azerbaijanis living in exile in Georgia,” the letter said.
The organizations added that Afgan Mukhtarli’s “abduction and illegal deportation” to Azerbaijan “while in process of applying for asylum in Georgia is a clear violation of international law,” and that “it is a black stain on Georgia’s reputation as a leader in upholding human rights standards in the Caucasus region.”
The organizations welcomed the opening of an investigation into the case and expressed hope that it would “fully shed light on the abductors’ identities and clarify the potential role of the Georgian authorities in what happened.” “A clear message needs to be sent regarding that illegal actions of a neighboring state on Georgian territory will not be accepted, and that any public servant implicated in such grave violations of international law will be held accountable.”