HEARINGS ON AZERBAIJAN BEGIN IN UN COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE

November 10th, 2009
Yesterday, 9 November, within the framework of 43rd session of the United Nations Organization Committee against Torture, discussions began regarding torture and other inhuman treatment cases in Azerbaijan. In the first half of the day CAT chairman and members held a meeting with the representatives of Azerbaijan’s human rights organizations, who presented an alternative report to the Committee. During the meeting human rights defenders talked about problems that concern them.

Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety (IRFS) representative Rasul Jafarov delivered a statement on the report that was prepared by Azerbaijan NGOs in conjunction with the Human Rights House Foundation and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders (Woman Rights Defense Association named after Dilare Aliyeva, the Democracy and Human Rights Public Union, the Law Enlightenment Society, the Institute for Peace and Democracy, the Women Crisis Centre, IRFS). Jafarov stated that problems exist regarding people’s protection from torture and other inhuman treatment in Azerbaijan. As an example, he talked about the issues related to young bloggers and public activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hadjizade. He also mentioned the late Editor-in-chief of “Tolishi Sado” newspaper Novruzali Mammadov, and political prisoner Faina Kungurova, both of whom died in prison. In addition, Jafarov stated that several suggestions were presented in the report that these suggestions should be carried out. The Committee was asked to raise the issue regarding the installation of video-cameras in all interrogation rooms and in the rooms in police departments where preliminary interrogations are carried out.
HRHF representative Yanet Bahena said in her statement that they are concerned about the examination carried out by the Justice Ministry in IRFS, an organization engaged in rights defense in Azerbaijan. She called on the Azerbaijani Government to respect Freedom of Assembly as it is envisaged in the country’s Constitution and the European Human Rights Convention.     
In the second part of the day, the discussions with the members of delegation of Azerbaijan government began. The discussions were held on the third periodic report presented to CAT by Azerbaijan government and the issues raised by human rights defenders in their alternative reports. First of all, the head of the delegation from Azerbaijan, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov said that the government takes positive steps aimed at abolishing torture and other inhuman treatment and types of punishment, and the situation has changed for better in this area. “The Azerbaijani government does not deny separate torture cases, however such cases are not of systematic character and all guilty parties are punished,” said Khalafov.
Committee member and Co-Rapporteur on Azerbaijan Felice D. Gaer, other members and the chairman of the Committee addressed some questions to Azerbaijani delegation. These questions covered the following issues: the failure to give exact statistic information in the report presented by the government, the failure to consider the notion “discrimination” in the description of torture in the Criminal Code, the failure to explain the details of 161 persons being involved in the responsibility under article 133 of the Criminal Code in 2001-2008, the low level of legal assistance and the low number of defense lawyers, the dependence of court authority on the government, the failure to investigate domestic violence, especially violation against women, the lack of transparency of Public Committee’s activities that operate under Justice Ministry, the failure to remove the isolator in the National Security Ministry, the lack of independent medical examination, the lack of details about the Ombudsman’s activities, the increasing violation cases against journalists and human rights defenders, and the dispersion of rallies during elections and other times and other protest actions etc.
Regarding concrete cases, explanations were asked about the cases of slain “Monitor” magazine editor-in-chief Elmar Huseynov, the young bloggers, Novruzali Mammadov, Faina Kungurova; and  Serdar Memmedov (Jalaloglu) and Mahire Muradova,  who were recognized as the people facing torture by the European Court on Human Rights.
Azerbaijan’s delegation was able to answer only a few questions because of lack of the time, but it will continue after dinner today, 10 November.