11 January 2013

Azerbaijan: Ill-treatment of Mr. Hilal Mammadov while in detention

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan that Mr. Hilal Mammadov, a minority rights defender and Editor-in-chief of the Tolishi-Sado (Voice of Talysh) newspaper[1], was beaten and injured by his cell mate in a Kurdakhani prison on November 26, 28 and 29, 2012.

According to the information received, his cell mate suffers from a serious mental disease. Mr. Mammadov was placed in his cell two weeks before the attacks. However, as his cell mate’s behaviour was aggressive, even preventing him from sleeping at night, Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers requested on several occasions that he be removed from the cell, but their requests were all ignored. On November 29, his cell mate was eventually transferred to the medical unit of the prison hospital for treatment.

In addition, on November 8, 2012, the Sabail District Court rejected a complaint filed by Mr. Hilal Mammadov to denounce acts of torture and ill-treatment he suffered in the framework of his arrest. Such complaint took into account the opinion of forensic examination that injuries on his legs could be caused in that framework, as well as a previous decision of the Nasimi District Court (see background information). On November 19, 2012, the Baku Appeals Court upheld the November-8 decision. Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers announced their intent to bring the matter before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Furthermore, on November 28, 2012, Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers reported that the investigation stage had been completed, and that Mr. Mammadov was facing accusations under Articles 274 (“high treason”), 283.2.2 (“incitement to national, racial or religious hostility”) and 234.4.3 (“illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics and psychotropic substances”) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan.

On December 21, 2012, the criminal case file on Mr. Mammadov was transferred to the Court on Grave Crimes for trial. The first hearing took place on January 9, 2013 as a preparatory session defining the procedural issues. On that occasion, Mr. Hilal Mammadov’s lawyer submitted two motions: one requesting the audio- and video-tape of the hearing, and another to request that his client be allowed to sit outside of the court cage, together with his lawyer. However, both motions were rejected.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Hilal Mammadov has been detained for more than five months. After being sentenced, on June 22, 2012, to three months of pre-trial detention, Mr. Mammadov appealed this decision to request a permission to serve this term under house arrest. However, on September 10, 2012, the Baku Appeals Court upheld the original decision, denying him provisional release. Mr. Mammadov faces imprisonment sentences ranging up to life term, under clearly trumped-up charges brought against him successively in June 2012, July 2012 and most recently November 2012.

The Observatory firmly condemns the ongoing harassment of Mr. Mammadov, and considers it as an obvious attempt more to silence his efforts to report on human rights violations.

The Observatory is all the more concerned with Mr. Mammadov’s conditions of detention as former Tolishi-Sado Editor-in-chief, Mr. Novruzali Mammedov, was subjected to similar acts of harassment and arbitrary detention in 2007, and eventually died in custody on August 17, 2009[2].

The Observatory therefore reiterates its calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to drop all charges against him immediately and unconditionally, as such practices seem to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities.

Background information:

On June 21, 2012, Mr. Hilal Mammadov was arrested in relation to a criminal case opened against him by the Nasimi District Police under Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code. The authorities alleged having seized five grams of heroin from him and about 30 grams at his place of residence. Article 234.4 provides penalties ranging from confiscation of property to imprisonment for up to 12 years. On June 22, 2012, the Nasimi District Court sentenced Mr. Hilal Mammadov to 3 months of pre-trial detention.

On the same day, Mr. Mammadov met with his lawyer, who discovered and photographed injuries on his leg, and subsequently lodged a complaint for torture.

On July 4, 2012, the accusations of illegal possession of drugs were contradicted by a joint statement of the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, which states that Mr. Mammadov was in reality arrested on June 21, 2012 on the basis of information about his supposed “cooperation with the intelligence agency of a foreign country”, “activities against the security and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan”, as well as “incitement of national, racial and religious hatred”. According to the authors of the statement, Mr. Mammadov supposedly became an agent of foreign secret services 20 years ago.

On July 4, 2012, new trumped-up charges were brought against Mr. Mammadov under other Articles 274 and 283.2.2 of the Criminal Code. The investigators confiscated as evidence a notebook computer as well as drives containing information. The criminal case launched against him by the Nasimi District Prosecutor’s Office was transferred to the Grave Crimes Investigation Department, under the General Prosecutor’s Office.

On July 12, 2012, the Grave Crimes Investigation Department decided to test Mr. Mammadov’s blood and urine. The detainee was taken to the Republican Drug Rehab Centre in a stuffy car alongside 20 drug addicts and TB sufferers. At the hospital, Mr. Mammadov refused to take this test, alleging that he had been brutally beaten by employees of the Ministry of Interior. The detainee, who suffers from asthma, also claimed that he considered this action as a degradation of personal honour and an attempt on his life. It is to be further noted that this testing decision was taken 21 days after he was arrested and notwithstanding he had been sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention on the following day on the grounds of drug charges.

On July 25, 2012, Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers appealed against the decision issued on June 22 to sentence him to three months pre-trial detention. However, due to an oversight of the postal service employees, the date was written as July 26 on the letter, resulting in the rejection of the appeal, since the deadline to appeal against a decision is 72 hours. On August 9, 2012, the judge nevertheless decided that the deadline was not missed and ordered to refer the appeal to the Appeals Court.

On July 31, 2012, the Nasimi District Court of Baku City had already denied the first complaint that Mr. Mammadov had filed to denounce acts of torture and ill-treatment he suffered in the framework of the criminal case brought against him in late June 2012. Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers claimed that the investigating authorities had violated the Criminal Procedure Code, but the judge of the Nasimi District Court argued that the lawsuit brought by Mr. Mammadov did not comply with the provisions of Article 449 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Azerbaijan (“complaints to the court concerning procedural acts or decisions of the prosecuting authority”), and subsequently closed the hearing without listening to the opinions of Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers.

On August 29, 2012, the Nasimi District Court further rejected the appeal that Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers had filed against the July-31 decision. While the hearing was expected to be open, the judge decided to hold a closed trial, so that journalists and members of the committee created in support of Mr. Mammadov had to wait for the court’s decision from the street.

In addition, on August 27, 2012, the Deputy General Prosecutor also refused to open proceedings on the complaint that Mr. Hilal Mammadov lodged in June against the acts of torture and ill-treatment he suffered during the first days of his detention.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Hilal Mammadov as well as of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

ii. Release Mr. Hilal Mammadov immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Hilal Mammadov, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;

iv. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Hilal Mammadov and more generally against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as its Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.

Addresses:

· Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 492 06 25, +994 412 92 28 68, E-mail: office@pa.gov.az, office@apparat.gov.az

· Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 492 06 82, +994 12 492 26 63, E-mail: eldar_sultanov@prosecutor.gov.az

· Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Home Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax: + 994 12 492 45 90

· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail: minjus@azdata.net, contact@justice.gov.az; Tel (99412) 430 09 77, Fax + 99412 430 09 81

· Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, E-mail: geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az Fax: +4122 901 18 44

· Azerbaijani Embassy in Brussels, Avenue Moliere, 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 345 26 60, Fax: +32 2 345 91 85

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.
Last Update 11 January 2013
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