Media Statement: Alexander Lapshin

Saturday, 28 January 2017



The Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in Australia calls on the State and Federal Governments of Australia, and Australian civil rights organisations, to condemn the decision by the Republic of Belarus to accept  Azerbaijan’s request to extradite detained Israeli-Russian blogger Alexander Lapshin.

Lapshin stands accused of violating clause 281.2 and 318.2 of Azerbaijan’s penal code; supporting the harm of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, and crossing Azerbaijan’s political borders at undesignated zones without express permission, respectively. The charges follow Lapshin’s entering the disputed territory of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic from Azerbaijan. While in Nagorno Karabakh (also, Artsakh), Lapshin reported on the self-determination of the people of Artsakh and the dire security position imposed by Azerbaijan’s military posturing and assault of civilian populations. Lapshin also condemned the Azerbaijani government’s denial of basic human and civil rights to its own citizens, and criticised government corruption and detrimental impact this has had on national development.

Lapshin faces a total of up to 13 years imprisonment for the violation of these clauses in his pursuit of public accountability for the government of Azerbaijan’s human rights violations against the people of Artsakh, as well as the people of Azerbaijan.

The Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic notes that the violation of freedom of speech and freedom of movement are codified in Azerbaijani law. Reporters without Borders ranks Azerbaijan 163rd out of 180 countries in its ‘Press Freedom Index’. The current trajectory suggests further decline. Currently, 180 journalists are declared ‘persona non grata’ for visiting the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh. Additionally, Azerbaijan has one of the highest rates of political prisoners per capita in the world, with approximately 80 (known) detained, ranging from journalists, human rights activists, youth activists, political opposition leaders, protesters, and the families of those above.

The Republic of Belarus’s complicity in Azerbaijan’s restriction of press freedom sets a dangerous precedent for human rights in international law. Under Article 1, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, Australia, as a founding member of the UN and actor instrumental in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has a responsibility to “promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” that Azerbaijan and Belarus have flagrantly violated.

Kaylar Michaelian
Permanent Representative of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in Australia