The ECHR for the first time recognized the violation of the right to receive information in Azerbaijan

December 9th, 2021

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the first time recognized a violation of the right to receive information in the case of Azerbaijan.

Turan was informed about this by Khalid Agaliyev, head of the “Media Rights Protection Group”, who monitors the decisions of the ECHR on Azerbaijan. 

According to him, the case concerned two complaints of the editor of the Azadlig newspaper Rovshan Hajibeyli – against the Ministry of Health and the Cabinet of Ministers. 

The journalist asked the relevant state bodies for information on the environmental impact of the Gabala radar station.

He was denied information, and Hajibeyli’s complaints to local courts were rejected.

The applicant raised questions about the violation of his rights under Art. 10 (freedom of expression) and 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Complaints were filed in 2012-2013. The ECHR found a violation of the Article  10 (freedom of expression) guaranteeing the right to information and ordered the applicant to be awarded compensation in the amount of EUR 1,500.

On the first complaint, it was noted that the Gabala radar station belonging to the Soviet Army, built in 1985, had early warning capabilities for the launch of ballistic missiles at a distance of about 6,000 km. Although after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the station became the property of Azerbaijan, it was run by Russia under a lease agreement. In 2012, the station was closed, and the equipment was taken to Russia.

In 2001 and 2003, the President of Azerbaijan signed orders on assessing the impact of the station on the environment and public health. The decree created a joint Azerbaijani-Russian commission to monitor the health of the population and the environment, and the Minister of Health was appointed chairman of the commission.

According to the applicant, an independent investigation revealed that the station caused serious health problems for the population in Gabala and the surrounding areas. In 2010, the applicant sent an information request to the Ministry of Health to ascertain whether the commission was functioning and requested copies of reports on the plant’s environmental and public health impacts. The Ministry of Health responded to the request, saying that the commission prepared the report and sent it to the Cabinet of Ministers, refusing to provide information.

The applicant lodged a legal action requiring the Ministry to respond to the request for information on the merits. The Nasimi District Court dismissed the claim, stating that the ministry did not have the documents requested by the applicant. The higher courts did not change this decision. In the second case, the applicant requested the same information from the Cabinet of Ministers through an information request. But the government did not respond to the request at all. The applicant’s claim against the Cabinet was also dismissed by the local courts. The government did not even send a representative to trial.