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3 December, 2009

 

           The Institute of Peace and Democracy

 

 

1 December, 2009

 

“Violation of human rights and democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan

 

THE RIGHT TO LIFE

 

On August 17, 2009 in a prison hospital died 68-year-old political prisoner Novruzali Mammedov (editor of the only Talysh-language newspaper). From the very day of his arrest in January 2007 he was subject to both physical and psychological torture. He and dissident Faina Kungurova who died in the same prison hospital on November 18, 2007, can be called prisoners of conscience, as neither of them committed any crimes. In addition, Kungurova did not last till her trial. 

There is no accurate information on the rate of monthly death cases in detention facilities. The Justice Ministry does not disclose exact figures.

 

But according to the information we could get : Emin Mamedov, Jamal Halilov and Ali Muradov died in 2007 , in 2008- Arif Aslanov. On August 17,2009, when Novruzali Mamadov died,  3 more prisoners died as well, whose names are unknown.

Nowadays , Jabir Dadashov was sentenced for 6 years’ imprisonment  in October, 2007, he has a terrible heart disease.

 

THE RIGHT TO PROTECTION FROM TORTURE

 

In 2006 Institute of Peace and Democracy carried out a special survey on torture, which found out that in 2006 alone 13 citizens died under torture. Among them are 1979-born Namig Mammedov beaten to death by the police of Khyzy region and charged with theft of two sheep; 1967-born Rasim Alishev, a disabled person of group 2 and veteran of Karabakh war, was beaten to death in the police station of the city of Mingechevir and charged with the theft of a horse (for more information: “Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan: Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms in 2006” - Institute of Peace and Democracy, Azerbaijan, Bureau for Human Rights and Law Observance, Uzbekistan, Baku, 2007).

Tortures are widely spread both in police stations (torture begins with the very first minutes of detention) and detention facilities. Despite a concrete commitment undertaken by Azerbaijan while entering the Council of Europe to punish law-enforcement officers guilty in torture none of those who tortured has been so far brought to trial.

The European Court of Human Rights already admitted the facts of torture against prisoners in Azerbaijan. I may exemplify the case of Sardar Jalaloglu (Mammedov), who was subject to the torture following his arrest in 2005. Though the authorities repaid compensation to Jalaloglu after the judgment of the European Court, none of those who had tortured him was punished.

According to the information given by the Committee against Torture in 2008, 81 people were tortured  and 3 out of 81 died after torture . 110 people were tortured in 2009 and died 6 people.

 

THE RIGHT TO FREE AND FAIR TRIAL

 

Azerbaijan lacks an independent judicial system based on law and right. Courts are vastly corrupted. The authorities exert crackdown on the opposition and civil society through courts. As a result, the Federation of Human Rights Organizations of Azerbaijan put 66 political prisoners in its list as of November 20, 2009. 4 of them are declared as prisoners of conscience by the International Amnesty.

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND SELF-EXPRESSION

 

Suppressing the freedom of speech the authorities of Azerbaijan resort to physical, out-of-court reprisal and the judiciary system against the mass media and journalists.

 

The line after which began total suppression of journalists is March 02, 2005, when Elmar Huseynov, editor and publisher of an independent weekly journal “Monitor”, was assassinated at the doorway of his house.

 

In 2007 alone, 103 court hearings were held on lawsuits against journalists and the mass media, on charges of defamation. Journalists are charged with also drug possession, hooliganism, even terrorism. According to the statement of Miklos Haraszti, OSCE Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech, the number of imprisoned journalists in Azerbaijan in 2005-2009 is the largest among the OSCE countries

There should be noted the fact of sentencing (on July 23, 2008) scholar-linguist Novruzali Mammedov, editor with “Tolyshi Sedo”, the only Talysh-language newspaper, to ten years in prison on false charge of espionage for Iran. On August 17, 2009 he died in prison.

 

 

Physical assault on journalists, beatings by the police and unknown, abduction, custody, humiliation, torture and knife wounds went full blast in 2005.

According to a Report issued by the Institute for Media Rights, 10 facts of assault on journalists were documented in 2005.  In 2006 among other facts of assault the abduction of Bakhadin Gaziyev, editor with newspaper “Bizim Yol”, was especially severe. He was tortured and then thrown down from a car in the outskirts of the city. He became invalid.
Only in 2008 alone there were 49 cases of insult or physical assault of journalists. In 2009 there were cases of illegal detain of journalists.

 

2009

On September 17 around 10.30 a.m. the police illegally detained Idrak Abbasov, a journalist with newspaper “Ayna” and “Zerkalo”, an employee with the Institute of Freedom and Safety of Reporters. The journalist was shooting buses of Route 156 the drivers of which initiated a strike. According to Idrak Abbasov, he was assaulted and “with my hands pinioned they took my photo camera, my journalist ID and a mobile phone. I was brought to some room and kept there for over one hour”.

The journalist was released only after Niyazi Rustamov, Director of Technical Control “Baku Passenger Transport”, spoke to some people unknown to the journalist on the phone.

 

On October 08 around 12.00 on his way to the editorial office 1988-born Ravil Mammedov, Deputy of Shahin Agabeyli, Editor of newspaper “Milli Yol” and owner of the webportal “Poligon”, was forcibly put in a car by 5 men in civilian clothes and taken to an undisclosed location. Being with Ravil that time his friend informed Shahin Agabeyli on abduction of Ravil. The editor informed the Internal Ministry on the abduction of the journalist. In its turn, the Institute of Freedom and Safety of Reporters applied in written to the Internal Ministry regarding the abduction.

Around 16.00 p.m. we could reach Ravil Mammedov though his mobile phone which had been closed before. He told that police officers had taken him but he could not tell where he was.

Around 18.00 Shahin Agabeyli received a telephone call from Sadig Gozalov, Head of Press Service with the Internal Ministry and told him that he tried to clarify the situation with Ravil Mammedov. Journalist with newspaper “Milli Yol” Eldaniz Elgun went to a meeting in the Press Service of the Internal Ministry. Around 18.35 p.m. some civilians (about 10) began to surround the editorial office located at the intersection of Rasul Rza and Bashir Safaroglu streets.

Shahin Agabeyli phoned to the Office of the Institute of Freedom and Safety of Reporters asking to send some of their staff. When the editor opened the door to let the employees in, men in civilian clothes rushed into the Office and pinioned arms of Shahin Agabeyli and the employees with the Institute confiscating their video and photo cameras. Only after this, the assailants showed their Internal Ministry IDs to the journalists. They also detained Elnur Mammedov, an employee with the Institute, who captured on video the assault of the police from the street. Afterwards, all employees of the Institute were released, but Shahin Agabeyli was taken without any explanations to Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Internal Ministry.

 

In the Department Shahin Agabeyli was informed that his deputy Ravil Mammedov and newspaper journalist Eldaniz Elgun were also kept in the Department. Department Chief explained the reason of their detention – publication of an article “Soon staff redundancy in the Internal Ministry” dated October 06 posted on the webportal “Poligon”. (According to Agabeyli, the article had been taken from newspaper “Nonsense” dated October 05, and the Ministry thought that the article had been written by the journalists of “Poligon”. The webportal was registered for Ravil Mammedov and for that reason the police had detained him first.

The Department considered the article to be harmful and provocative and informed the editor of this. Shahin Agabeyli stated that it had not been necessary to carry out an operation to seize the journalists. He just could have been invited to the Department or they could send the opinion of the Internal Ministry concerning the article, and the opinion would have been published without fail. Around 21.00 p.m. all the detained journalists were released and their confiscated video and photo cameras were returned.

The Institute is preparing a court claim against the police officers who had abused their authority on October 08.

 

The number of attacks and physical intimidations over journalists keeps increasing. 150 (one hundred and fifty) acts of physical violence were committed against journalists within the first 5 years of Ilham Aliyev’s presidency. It is noteworthy that only two cases out of 150 were investigated and the guilty were brought to trial and condemned. Representatives of pro-governmental mass media became victims in both cases: journalists of the TV Broadcast Lider and Public TV. Azerbaijan’s authorities practically encourage and consciously provoke these criminals by refusing to conduct investigations of crimes committed against the representatives of the independent and opposition mass media. Facts on persecution of journalists, crimes committed against mass media by law-enforcement agencies, conscious refusal of the Office of Public Prosecutor and the court to reveal the truth and punish criminals are considered to be a vivid evidence of the political order to suppress freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.

Faramaz Allahverdiyev and Sardar Alibayli, the editor and journalist of the newspaper “Milletim” were accused  for defamation for 6 and 4 months  in October, 2009 .

 

The widely publicized case of bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli (Abdullayev) included two types of pressure on freedom of speech and freedom of expression - violence and court (criminal) actions. The young bloggers were at first severely beaten and then imprisoned charged with hooliganism.

 

On November 11 Sabail District Court sentenced Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev to 2 and 2.5 years imprisonment , respectively.

 

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

 

All actions of the citizens to protest the rigged elections were severely suppressed by the police. No police officers were brought to trial. And what is more in June 2008 Ilham Aliyev addressing the students of the Police Academy stated literally the following, «International organizations demand that the police officers involved in violence while dispersing rallies in October 2003 and November 2005 be brought to trial. I officially state that none of them will be punished. The police were on the watch of law and order. The President’s speech was broadcasted on TV.

26 November 2005 saw the last officially sanctioned rally in Azerbaijan. Despite the constitutional right to freedom of assembly, the authorities do not allow rallies, demonstrations and even small pickets. When citizens resort to unsanctioned pickets, the police brutally beat and detain the participants.

The government didn’t allow any assembly in 2009. 


THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND TO BE ELECTED

 

All the elections held in Azerbaijan beginning from 1993 (parliamentary, presidential, and municipal) have been totally rigged. Election commissions are under control of the ruling party. Only on October 15-16, 2003 night in the aftermath of the presidential elections the police arrested over 1600 activists with the opposition and civil society – members of election commissions and their families to force them to sign rigged protocols (members of election commissions were threatened with rape of their wives and daughters). In protest to the official statement on the presidential elections made by the OSCE Election Observation Mission (headed by Peter Ayker, the USA) 120 representatives of the Mission (observers from Poland, Estonia, United States, Serbia, etc.) made their own Conclusion calling the 2003 elections a crime.

 

 

It will be conducted municipal elections on December 23, 2009( the previous elections were held in 1999 and 2004). In July, the number of the municipalities were reduced from 2.757 to 1.764.

The election of 15.682 members of municipalities is expected on December 23,2009. The municipal election will not be held in Azerbaijan regions occupied by Armenian forces. 

 

 

In Moscow, Tanya Lokshina (English, Russian, French): +7-495-621-4697

In New York, Holly Cartner (English, German): +1-212-216-1288; +1-917-553-4315 (mobile)

In New York, Veronika Szente Goldston (English, Finnish, French, Swedish, Hungarian): +1-212-216-271; +1-917-682-1271 (mobile)


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