Council of Europe launches inquiry into Azerbaijan’s alarming human rights record.

On 16 December, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, decided to launch an enquiry under the rarely used provision of Article 52 of the European Convention of Human Rights, following Azerbaijan’s persistent violation of the Convention. "Judgments from the ECtHR have highlighted an arbitrary application of the law in Azerbaijan, notably in order to silence critical voices and limit freedom of speech," said the Secretary General, highlighting the case of imprisonned Ilgar Mammadov.

In May 2014, the ECtHR ruled that proceedings against him were unfounded and ordered his immediate release. To date the ruling has remained unimplemented by the Azeri authorities. The Council of Europe will send representatives to Azerbaijan to seek explanations from authorities.

FIDH, a member of the Sports For Rights Coalition, has led an intense and sustained advocacy campaign, including before the Council of Europe, denouncing Azerbaijan’s ruthless crackdown on civil society. Although the recent suspension of sentences of Leyla and Arif Yunus is a welcome step, justice remains elusive for them and for the critics of President Aliyev’s government who face hefty sentences or have even been murdered. FIDH will continue to campaign, notably through the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), for the unconditional release of all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Azerbaijan, such as Khadija Ismailova, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Hilal Mammadov and Rauf Mirqadirov.

Background : Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe in 2001. Council members must ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, and are bound to implement rulings of the Strasbourg Court. The Council of Europe had already withdrawn its participation in the joint Working Group on Human Rights in Azerbaijan in October, echoing recommendations conveyed over the past months in light of the inability of this group to improve the situation of human rights defenders in the country. In June 2015, PACE had adopted a landmark, substantially-amended resolution condemning the repression of civil society in Azerbaijan, urging the authorities to put an end to the systematic harassment of human rights defenders, and to revise the legislation on NGOs as recommended by the Venice Commission. This resolution has remained largely unimplemented.

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