European Court questions SOCAR’s violent attack on Azerbaijani journalist

Published: 18 Sep 2017

“I have been arrested, and attacked. My family and my home have been attacked. It is not possible to find justice in Azerbaijan. Now the European Court is our only opportunity to hold those responsible for my attack to account.”

Idrak Abbasov, Azerbaijani journalist, speaking in September 2017

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The European Court of Human Rights has asked the Azerbaijani Government to account for a serious physical and verbal assault on journalist Idrak Abbasov by SOCAR security officers in April 2012. Mr Abbasov had been recording a protest against SOCAR’s demolition of houses on the outskirts of Baku. He is represented by the Media Rights Institute[2] and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, based at Middlesex University.

Mr Abbasov worked for the Zerkalo newspaper. In April 2012, he covered a protest by local residents against their eviction and the demolition of their homes, following SOCAR’s acquisition of the land. He was wearing a vest identifying him as a journalist. Mr Abbasov refused to stop filming and was knocked to the ground by up to 20 SOCAR security service officers, who beat him with rubber truncheons, kicked him all over his body (including his eyes) and swore at him. He lost consciousness. Police officers present did not stop SOCAR’s officers, nor were other witnesses allowed to help him. SOCAR officers seized his mobile phone, broke it and removed its memory. Mr Abbasov sustained a traumatic brain injury, concussion, a torn eyelid, and two broken ribs, amongst other injuries.

Mr Abbasov argues before the European Court that he was subjected to ill-treatment and attacked because of his journalistic activities, neither of which were investigated (Articles 3 and 10 ECHR).  He also complains that he had no access to an effective remedy (Article 13 ECHR).

On 11 July 2017 the European Court invited the Azerbaijani Government to submit its observations in this case by November 2017, following which we will submit our response. The Court grouped this case together with seven others, all of which deal with the use of violence against journalists. EHRAC is litigating a series of cases tackling this crackdown on critical voices, a systemic issue in Azerbaijan where, in recent years, journalists, media outlets, human rights lawyers and defenders, and civil society organisations have all faced severe restrictions, forcing many to cease their activities or to move abroad.

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[1] State Oil Company of Azerbaijan

[2] This case was originally litigated by the Media Rights Institute (Baku), until its closure amidst the State crackdown on human rights defenders in 2014.