Azerbaijan: Ongoing judicial harassments and deprivation of her lawyers against Ms. Leyla Yunus

Urgent Appeal


New information
AZE 002 / 0414 / OBS 031.4
Judicial harassment / Deprivation of lawyers
November 6, 2014

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassments and the deprivation of her lawyers against Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly.

According to the information received, on October 29, 2014, Leyla Yunus was deprived of her lawyer, Javad Javadov. This decision follows Mr. Javadov’s active criticism of the judicial process against Leyla Yunus at a hearing on October 24, 2014. Mr. Javadov highlighted the lack of evidence-based decisions and the fact that the investigators have not visited Ms. Yunus even once during the detention period in a hearing, in which the Pre-trial Court decided to extend Ms. Yunus’ pre-trial detention until February 28, 2015. According to Mr. Javadov, the investigation allegedly related to a dismissal of the lawyer due to his conflict of interests as a witness on the case. However, the Prosecutor’s Office has still not explained the reasons officially. In addition, the Observatory has just been informed that Mr. Khalid Bagirov, the second main lawyer of Ms. Leyla Yunus, has also been removed from her case.

In a similar situation, three out of four lawyers of human rights defender Mr. Intigam Aliyev (Messrs. Anar Qasymly, Alayif Hasanov and Fariz Namazly) have been excluded from his defense. This is due to the fact that lawyers are called as witnesses in the case.

Moreover, her other lawyer, Mr. Alayif Huseynov has been the subject of a lawsuit by Nuriya Huseynova – cellmate of Leyla Yunus - accusing him of passing information to Mass Media, reportedly about about the ill-treatment that Ms. Yunus is facing in prison. The trial on the case started on September 29 at the Sabunchu District Court of Baku city. Besides, the Observatory was also informed that on October 24, 2014, the pre-trial detention of Leyla Yunus was extended until February 28, 2015. Similarly, on October 29, 2014, the pre-trial detention of her husband and co-defender Mr. Arif Yunusov, also was extended until March 5, 2015.

Against the background of continuing hate speeches against Ms. Yunus, the Vice-Director of the Institute of History of National Academy of Sciences, Mr. J. Bahramov, announced on October 17 that the Institute was discussing a possible deprivation of Ms. Yunus from her Ph.D., alleging that her thesis was a plagiarism.
The Observatory recalls that these decisions come following strong international mobilisation on the case of Leyla Yunus and other Azeri human rights defenders on the occasion of the official visit to France of President Ilham Aliyev in France on October 27, 2014 [1].

The Observatory recalls as stated in previous communications its serious concerns regarding the judicial harassment to both Ms. Leyla Yunus and her husband, Mr. Arif Yunusov.

The Observatory calls upon the authorities in Azerbaijan to ensure Ms. Leyla Yunus’ and Mr. Arif Yunusov’s physical and psychological integrity by providing adequate medical care as well as to release them immediately and unconditionally, as their detention seems to only aim at sanctioning their activities amidst a wave of increasing repression against civil society organisations and representatives in Azerbaijan.

Background information:

On April 28, 2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus was reportedly invited as a witness on the criminal case of journalist Rauf Mirqadirov [2] to the Investigation Department of Serious Crimes of the Office of Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan. That evening, however, Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov were detained at the Baku Heydar Aliyev airport where authorities confiscated their passports and seized a laptop and paper records as they were trying to fly to Paris via Doha, while denying Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov the right to see their lawyer. An attempted search of the Yunus apartment later that night resulted in the hospitalisation of Mr. Yunusov for a pre-stroke condition.

The following morning, April 29, 2014, Ms. Yunus was taken to the Investigation Department of Serious Crimes of the General Prosecutor’s Office and interrogated for nine hours, including about joint projects of the IPD and Armenian NGOs as well as her relations with journalist Rauf Mirqadirov. Later that night, police searched the offices of the IPD as well as the Yunus’ private residence, confiscating several computers, books, and print materials.

Three months before her arrest, Ms. Leyla Yunus actively campaigned for the release of political prisoners and against the organisation of European Olympic Games in Baku. One day before her arrest, on July 29, 2014, she wrote a letter to the President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, criticising the arrest of many critics of his regime and human rights defenders.

On July 30, 2014, the Prosecutor’s office employees arrested Ms. Leyla Yunus. She was charged with “treason” (Article 274 of the Criminal Code), “large-scale fraud” (Article (178.3.2), “forgery” (Article 320), “tax evasion” (Article 213), and “illegal business” (Article 192), and sentenced to three months pre-trial detention. Mr. Arif Yunusov faced similar charges of “treason” and “fraud”, and was initially barred from traveling, but not jailed for health reasons. However, on August 5, 2014, the court eventually decided to arrest him too, and to place him in pre-trial detention for three months. The documents confiscated in April 2014 were a ground for the accusations against Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov.

Although the health of Ms. Leyla Yunus has deteriorated while in detention, the prison authorities in Kurdakhany detention facility have not allowed her to receive the parcels with medication she needs as she suffers from diabetes and kidneys problems. However, following the visit from delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on August 12, 2014, she finally got her painkiller-injections. Yet she is still not allowed to be hospitalised.

On September 6, 2014, her cellmate who verbally harassed her and threw plates and dishes at her attacked Leyla Yunus. Leyla Yunus started knocking at the door in order to call for help and when the staff from the prison arrived she reported the attack and asked to see the prison administration. She wrote three pages explaining the event and the previous acts of harassment conducted by her cellmate. Moreover, she also asked for medicine since she was feeling unwell after the attack but her demand was unattended.
On September 7, 2014, she was brought before Major Yagubov who announced her that a reprimand had been issued against her for knocking at the door without any reason and creating unrest inside the cell. No measure has been taken to either punish the cellmate nor to ensure the protection of Leyla Yunus.

On October 18, the Azeri authorities decided to transfer Ms. Leyla Yunus to the Investigative Prison of the Ministry of National Security, where her husband Mr. Arif Yunusov has been detained since August 5. Ms. Yunus was held there until October 24, date in which she was transferred back to Kurdakhani prison. The Investigative Prison is the only remaining prison which is not subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. The Observatory recalls that various international human rights bodies such as the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) or the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) have expressed their concerns about the extreme levels of isolation of the detainees and the absence of a proper medical unit in this prison. The UN CAT has recommended this prison to be either transferred to the Ministry of Justice or to be closed down.

Mr. Arif Yunusov was also arrested on August 5, 2014 and placed in pre-trial detention for three months. He is also in great need of medical treatment. In April and May 2014, he got two heart attacks and consequently spent several weeks in hospital.

Action requested:

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

i. Guarantee Ms. Yunus’ right to defense by ending Yunus’ deprivation of her lawyers and put an end to the practice of depriving human rights defenders of their lawyers by calling them as witnesses of the cases.

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov and all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov from pre-trial detention, as well as all the other arbitrarily arrested human rights defenders, since their detentions are arbitrary and only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iv. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial and investigatory levels - against Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov, 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:
- 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”;
- Article 5, which underscores the right of every individual to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organizations; and
- 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.


· 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:,
· Mr. Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 82, (+994) 12 492 26 63, E-mail:,
· Mr. Eldar Mahmudov, Minister of National Security, Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Parliament Avenue 14, Baku AZ1006,Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 493-76-22, E-mail:
· Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax: (+994) 12 492 45 90
· Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov,Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail:
· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail:; Fax (+994) 12 430 09 81
· H.E. Mr. Murad N. Najafbayli, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, Fax: (+41) 22 901 18 44, E-mail:
· Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels, Avenue Moliere 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, 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.

Geneva-Paris, November 6, 2014

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:


· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Read more