European Court prioritises detention case of human rights defender in Azerbaijan

26 November 2014

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to give priority to the case of Intigam Aliyev, a prominent human rights lawyer, following his arrest by Azerbaijani authorities on 8 August 2014. The case has already been communicated to the government with a deadline for their reply of 12 March 2015.

A well-known activist and human rights defender in Azerbaijan, and head of the Legal Education Society, Mr Aliyev has submitted over 130 applications to the ECtHR, and violations have been found in more than 30 of his cases. However, in recent months, Azerbaijan has been experiencing a widespread crackdown on civil society. In May 2014 Mr Aliyev was charged with abuse of power and forgery. In July his bank account was frozen and in August he was charged with conducting illegal business, tax evasion and abuse of authority under the Azerbaijani Criminal Code. Several searches of his home and office have also been conducted. He was arrested in August and has since been held in detention.

Mr Aliyev’s application to the ECtHR argues violations of his right to liberty (Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights), his right to privacy (Article 8) and the right to freedom of association (Article 11). He also argues that the proceedings against him are intended to prevent him from litigating Strasbourg cases (many of which are high profile cases relating to election irregularities and property acquisition by the state), in violation of Article 18 together with Article 5.

Mr Aliyev’s case has garnered much attention, with Amnesty International recognising him as a “prisoner of conscience”. UN special rapporteurs have also expressed their alarm “at the wave of politically-motivated repression of activists in reprisal for their legitimate work in documenting and reporting human rights violations.” On 18 September 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the urgent release of Mr Aliyev, as well as other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.