Case Nos. 6477/08 and 10414/08
Date of Judgment: 19 April 2018
The applicants, Annagi Hajibeyli and Intigam Aliyev, are both prominent lawyers and civil society activists in Azerbaijan, who have made statements and published articles in the media criticising the legal profession in the country. Following reforms to the legal profession in 1999, only members of the Azerbaijani Bar Association (ABA) could work as legal counsel. Lawyers holding a special permit to practise were provided with a right to become members of the ABA, subject to their compliance with admission requirements. However, in 2004, Annagi Hajibeyli and Intigam Aliyev, who both held such a special permit, were not invited to participate in the ABA constituent assembly and their right to be founders of the ABA was not recognised. In 2005, they applied to the ABA in order to be able to practise, but their applications were dismissed, following hearings in which they were questioned only on their views of the ABA.
On 12 January 2008, the applicants applied to the ECtHR. They argued that their right to freedom of expression (Art. 10) had been breached as they claimed they were not permitted to join the ABA because of their critical stance towards it and their statements about the poor state of the legal profession in the country. In addition, they complained of a violation of their rights to a fair trial (Art. 6) and to individual petition (Art. 34). The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) intervened as a third party, expressing its concern about the lack of independence and impartiality of the ABA, based on the results of its mission regarding the compliance of the governance of the legal profession in Azerbaijan. (See also EHRAC and ICJ urgent appeal on the disbarment of Yalchin Imanov.)