Azerbaijani human rights activists released from prison
On 17 March 2016, just before the upcoming traditional holiday celebrating the coming of spring (Novruz), the Azerbaijani President granted pardon to a number of human rights activists.
The list of the pardoned activists includes Anar Mammadli, president of Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), an organisation monitoring elections, and Rasul Jafarov, founder of the Human Rights Club and coordinator of the prominent campaign “Sing for Democracy” that worked to raise the global awareness of the human rights abuses in Azerbaijan before the finale of 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. To find out more about the case of Rasul Jafarov, use this link .
In the morning on the same day, the Court of Appeal in Baku changed the ruling issued in the case of the journalist Rauf Mirqadyrov. The journalist, who wrote about the reconciliation between Azerbaijani and Armenian people, was sentenced to six years in prison for alleged treason. The Court of Appeal reversed the decision, sentenced the journalist to a suspended term of imprisonment and released him from detention.
Pardon of Rasul Jafarov coincided with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (application no. 69981/14). In the decision from 17 March 2016, the Strasbourg Court held that the detention and criminal proceedings were aimed at punishing the activist for criticising the authorities, silencing him and preventing his future engagement in human rights activism. This lead to the violation of Article 18 of the Convention, read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Convention. The repressions that Mr Jafarov suffered from authorities interfered with his professional work and violated his right to freedom of association (Article 11 of the Convention), while the actions that prevented K. Bagirov, another activist and lawyer, from performing his professional work, were aimed at restricting his right to individual petition before the ECtHR and resulted in the violation of the Article 34 of the Convention. ECtHR did not award any compensation to the applicant.
The HFHR has submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case of R. Jafarov. “The Court agreed with our arguments concerning the politicisation of the detention of the activist”, said Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, a lawyer of the HFHR. “Keeping with our opinion, the Court held that the arrest of the activist was a culmination of the repressive measures taken against local human rights organisations”, she added.
A number of Azerbaijani human rights activists, journalists and opposition figures, including Intigam Aliyev, Khadija Ismayilova and Ilgar Mammadov, are still in pre-trial detention or serve prison time. Their petitions are yet to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.