The targeting of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan must stop, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, at the end of a two-day visit to the country. “The urgency of this visit was dictated by the arrest and detention over last summer of virtually all the civil society partners of my Office, which makes it increasingly difficult to work on human rights issues in Azerbaijan,” he said. The Commissioner had already highlighted deficiencies in the protection of freedom of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan in a report he published last year following a visit in May 2013 and in an update he published in April this year, following a worrying deterioration of the situation in the above areas, says a press release on the CoE website. "The recent repressive measures go in exactly the opposite direction from what I have recommended," Muižnieks regretted. A number of the recent arrests and detentions are related to shortcomings in the NGO legislation and the way it is implemented, a concern which the Commissioner had highlighted in his 2014 Observations, where he stressed that the cumbersome requirements for registration inevitably drive a number of NGOs to operate on the fringe of the law. “Legislation should not make human rights work impossible. In particular, those who have made good faith attempts to have their organization or grants registered, without success, should not be punished,” Muižnieks said. Commissioner Muižnieks also raised with the authorities the issue of rapid execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, notably in the case of Ilgar Mammadov – a judgment which recently became final. This judgment, which found that the applicant has been detained for purposes other than having committed an offence, puts the broader issue of selective justice in the forefront. “If the authorities want to demonstrate their commitment to Council of Europe values, they should deal with this and similar cases as a matter of priority,” he said.