Nagorno-Karabakh remains a “partly free” territory governed by a less repressive administration than Azerbaijan, the U.S. human rights group Freedom House said in an annual survey released on Wednesday.
Freedom House evaluated “political rights” and “civil liberties” in 195 countries and 13 disputed territories, including Karabakh, on a 7-point scale, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free. It again rated both Karabakh and Armenia “partly free” and kept Azerbaijan in the “not free” category of nations surveyed.
What is more, the “Freedom in the World” survey further downgraded Azerbaijan’s rating, giving the authorities in Baku a median score of 6. “Azerbaijan received a downward trend arrow due to an intensified crackdown on dissent, including the imprisonment and abuse of human rights advocates and journalists,” explained Freedom House.
Karabakh’s freedom score remained unchanged at 5.
Freedom House upgraded the status of the Armenian-populated territory, which broke away from Azerbaijani rule in the early 1990s, from “not free” to “partly free” in 2013. The watchdog attributed that to Karabakh’s “competitive” July 2012 presidential election which it said featured a “genuine opposition.”
The Azerbaijani government did not immediately react to the latest Freedom House survey. It strongly condemned Freedom Houses previous evaluations of Azerbaijan and Karabakh in January 2014, accusing the watchdog of pro-Armenian bias.
Like other Western human rights groups, Freedom House has decried violent attacks on and growing arrests of Azerbaijani government critics over the past year. In August, it urged the United States and the European Union to consider imposing sanctions on Azerbaijani officials involved in human rights abuses.