Internet restrictions in Azerbaijan: Yale students conduct research for website blocking case

4 June 2018

“The research carried out by Yale’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic will be indispensable as we argue that Azerbaijan has violated the European Convention on Human Rights by blocking access to four news websites. EHRAC is delighted to be part of the deepening collaboration between Yale and Middlesex’s Law Schools, and hope to work with the Clinic again next year.”

Prof. Philip Leach, EHRAC Director

Team from the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.

Students from the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School have collaborated with EHRAC lawyers on a case before the European Court of Human Rights challenging a block the government of Azerbaijan has placed on four news websites in Azerbaijan for publishing allegedly prohibited material. The Clinic researched restrictions on online media, including steps taken by the government to control websites and media outlets accessible in Azerbaijan, and comparable restrictions aimed at stifling freedom of expression in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. They also provided detailed analysis of the international legal standards on freedom of speech from the Council of Europe, the European Union, UN Human Rights Committee, the OSCE and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, amongst others.

EHRAC and a team of Azerbaijani lawyers are representing Meydan TVAzadliqAzerbaycan Saati and Turan TV (prominent independent and/or opposition news websites recently blocked in Azerbaijan) before the European Court. We argue that the ban restricts the websites’ freedom of expression and is politically motivated, and that they did not have any effective means of challenging the decision domestically. In April 2018, the Court decided to grant priority treatment to the case and its examination is currently pending.

The Yale students were supervised by James Silk, Binger Clinical Professor of Human Rights at Yale Law School and Supervising Attorney of the Lowenstein Clinic. The Lowenstein Clinic students commented:

“It was a privilege for us to work with EHRAC on this case, particularly understanding the urgent and meaningful difference our research could make for the aggrieved journalists and media personnel in Azerbaijan. As U.S. law students, we had a steep learning curve at first in exploring the Court’s jurisprudence, but it has been fascinating and rewarding work. We hope it is useful, and we look forward to following the case.”

This is not the first time EHRAC’s litigation has been bolstered by the Clinic’s research. In 2015, five students produced a paper on events in eastern Ukraine to support EHRAC’s pending cases on the ongoing conflict in the Donbas region.