CoE Committee of Ministers call upon Azerbaijan to quash convictions of leading human rights defenders
The Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe today urged Azerbaijan to quash the conviction decisions and delete the criminal records of eight applicants known collectively as the ‘Ilgar Mammadov group’. The group is comprised of government critics, civil society activists and human rights defenders who have all been subjected to “retaliatory prosecutions” by the Azerbaijani authorities, as found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), as part of a broader crackdown on civil society. Two of the applicants – Intigam Aliyev and Rasul Jafarov – are represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC).
The Committee of Ministers’ decision re-iterates a judgment made by the ECtHR in May 2019 which found that Azerbaijan had failed to comply with the Court’s original ruling in Ilgar Mammadov v Azerbaijan in 2014. The Azerbaijani authorities initially refused to release political activist Ilgar Mammadov, who was arrested on politically-motivated charges and subsequently imprisoned. He was eventually released in August 2018 after serving more than five years of a seven-year prison term.
Intigam Aliyev and Rasul Jafarov are prominent human rights defenders who have been persecuted by the Azerbaijani authorities for their activism. Both men were arrested on falsified charges in 2014. The ECtHR has previously ruled – in two separate cases litigated by EHRAC – that the arrest and detention of Aliyev and Jafarov was politically-motivated and was aimed at punishing them for their human rights work.
“We welcome the Committee’s strongly worded decision requiring the Government of Azerbaijan to rapidly ensure that the convictions of human rights defenders Intigam Aliyev and Rasul Jafarov are quashed and their criminal records deleted, along with any other negative consequences such as the travel ban against Mr Aliyev – something that we have been calling for since the adoption of the judgments. The Government reported that it sent all these cases to the Supreme Court for re-consideration on 12 September 2019 so we will closely follow what the Court will decide and hope that it will finally put an end to this persecution.”
Ramute Remezaite, EHRAC Legal Consultant
The applicants are still negatively impacted by the charges brought against them. EHRAC has been closely following the supervision process of the cases of Aliyev and Jafarov in Strasbourg and filed submissions to the Committee of Ministers in these cases in May 2019 and September 2019. The submissions pointed out that certain measures undertaken by the Azerbaijani Government were insufficient in fulfilling the implementation of the ECtHR judgments, and set out recommendations as to what measures were necessary to fully remedy the violations.
On 13 September 2019, the Azerbaijan authorities returned to Intigam Aliyev his offices, as well as documents seized upon his arrest in 2014. Yet his travel ban remains in place, and his bank accounts—and those of his NGO—are still frozen. Aliyev’s inability to access and use his bank accounts prevents him from continuing his professional legal activities, and means that his NGO (Legal Education Society) is unable to receive funding. In the case of Rasul Jafarov, the Azerbaijani Government continues failing to pay him full compensation and incurred costs and expenses in a timely manner.
The Committee of Ministers also strongly encouraged the Azerbaijani authorities to continue with the adoption of “effective and comprehensive measures” to enhance the independence of the judiciary and to ensure that there are no further retaliatory prosecutions or arrests of government critics, civil society activists and human rights defenders. It will review the group of cases again in December 2019.