Council of Europe Warns of Sanctions against Azerbaijan

September 23rd, 2016

06f121_feaff3ed2e704832a3dbe6a8fbb5d862.jpg

At its meeting of September 20-21, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe assessed Azerbaijan’s failure to release opposition REAL Movement’s jailed leader Ilgar Mammadov as violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms.

The Deputies deeply deplored that Ilgar Mammadov is still imprisoned notwithstanding the Court’s findings as regards the fundamental shortcomings in the criminal proceedings against him, and underlined that his continuing detention fails entirely to satisfy the obligation under Article 46 § 1 of the Convention.

They further recalled once again the commitment freely undertaken by Azerbaijan under Article 46 § 1 of the Convention to comply with the judgments of the European Court, as well as the requirement for each member State to comply with its obligations under Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe; expressed their grave concern about the continuing silence of the Azerbaijan authorities as regards the implementation of the individual measures required; noted further that the applicant’s appeal against conviction is still pending before the Supreme Court; underlined the urgent need for the appeal to be examined rapidly and urged the Azerbaijan authorities to specify the relevant time-table; and, finally, expressed their deepest concern about the absence of any information from the authorities concerning the general measures taken or envisaged to prevent violations of the rule of law through abuse of power of the kind established in the Court’s judgment.

Background: REAL Movement chairman Ilgar Mammadov was arrested together with journalist Tofig Yagublu on 4 February 2013, in the wake of the protests that swept Azerbaijan’s north-western city Ismayilli on 23 January 2013 and resulted in the arson of the “Chirag” Hotel and 4 cars in the city. The protests broke out after the Chirag Hotel employee, Baku resident Emil Shamsaddinov caused a road accident due to drunk driving, after which he and his passenger, Baku resident Elmaddin Mammadov beat up and injured the Ismayilli resident Ramil Bakirov who was nearby, and insulted the local residents before the very eyes of the crowd, who had gathered in the area of incident. More than 15 people, who had participated in the protests, as well as Emil Shamsaddinov and Elmaddin Mammadov, were later arrested. Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu travelled to Ismayilli one day after the protests, on January 24, in their capacity as a political figure and a journalist, to get firsthand information from locals about what had happened. Mammadov and Yagublu were initially charged under Articles 233 (organization of actions promoting infringement of the public order or active participation in such actions) and 315 (resistance to a representative of authority) of the Criminal Code. Later, the charge under Article 233 was dropped, and a new charge under Article 220.1 (organization of mass disorders accompanied by violence, pillage, arson or destruction of property or participation in such disorders) was brought against them. By Shaki Grave Crimes Court’s judgment of 17 March 2014, Ilgar Mammadov was sentenced to 7 years and Tofig Yagublu to 5 years in jail. The appeal against the verdict was not granted by Saki Appeal Court. On 13 October 2015, Supreme Court sent the case back to Shaki Appeal Court for re-consideration. Shaki Appeal Court upheld the verdict by its decision of 29 April 2016. Journalist Tofig Yagublu was released under the president’s pardon decree of March 17. On 22 May 2014, European Court recognized violation of Ilgar Mammadov’s rights under Articles 5.1 and 5.4 (right to liberty), 6.2 (presumption of innocence) and 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights.