Azerbaïdjan: Arbitrary arrest and acts of harassment of Ms. Leyla Yunus and her husband

Urgent Appeal

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), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and acts of harassment of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly, and her husband, Mr. Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflictology Department of IPD.

According to the information received, on April 28, 2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus was reportedly invited as a witness on the criminal case of journalist Rauf Mirqadirov[1] to the Investigation Department of Serious Crimes of the Office of Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan. On the same day, she applied and obtained a five-year Shengen visa.

On the evening of April 28, 2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov, who had just left a hospital where he was treated from heart problems, tried to fly from the Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport to Paris via Doha. They arrived at the airport by a diplomatic car accompanied by the French Ambassador and U.S. Charge d’Affairs. After the check-in, the Yunus couple was rejected by the border guards. Only after the intervention of Western diplomats they could cross the border. However, around 11.30 p.m. they were deprived from their boarding passes and passports and were told that they were prohibited to leave the country. As they were searched at the airport during three hours, their lawyer Khalid Baghirov was not allowed access to them. The couple was seized a laptop and paper records.

At about 3 am on April 29, 2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus and her husband were brought to their apartment so law enforcement officers could carry out a search. Ms. Yunus refused to open the door of their apartment and reportedly said that she would agree only if civil society activists were present in the equal quantity as policemen. She also demanded to be shown an order for the search, but policemen refused and showed it only to her lawyer. That provoked a discussion between Ms. Yunus, the investigator and policemen, which negatively affected the health of Mr. Arif Yunusov. At about 4 am, Mr. Arif Yunusov had to be hospitalized in a pre-stroke condition.

As for Ms. Yunus, despite of her protests, she was forced to visit a toilet room in a company of a male police officer. Her verbal protest was rejected by senior police officer, who argued that this was for security reasons.

At about 7 a.m. on April 29, 2014, Mrs. Yunus was taken for questioning to the Investigation Department of Serious Crimes of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan. She was accompanied by her lawyer Khalid Baghirov as well as IPD staff member and journalists.

The interrogation lasted nine hours and included questions about joint projects of the IPD and Armenian NGOs as well as her relations with journalist Rauf Mirqadirov. During her questioning, Ms Yunus alleged that she knows Mr. Mirqadirov only as a friend and good journalist. At 4 pm, Ms. Yunus was released. The interrogation did not result in a decision on arrest or a written undertaking not to abscond.

At about 6 p.m., Ms. Yunus took part in the search of her office. The inspectors reportedly confiscated all computers, books belonging to Mr. Arif Yunusov, various print materials, including conference proceedings with participation of Ms. Leyla and Mr. Arif Yunusov as well as visit card provided in 1994 by an Armenian historian.

Around 7 p.m. Mr. Yunus and inspectors left the IPD office for a search of the private flat of the Yunus couple.

The Observatory is concerned by the arbitrary arrest and harassment of Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov, and calls upon the authorities in Azerbaijan to put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against them as it seems to only aim at sanctioning Ms. Yunus’ activities.

The Observatory is all the more concerned that these facts might announce an intensification of the repression against Ms. Leyla Yunus, and more generally those involved in the Armenian-Azeri dialogue.

Background information:

On April 19, 2014, Mr. Rauf Mirqadirov was arrested on his arrival to Baku on charges of spying for Armenia (Article 274 of the Criminal Code). Mr. Mirqadirov participated in several projects that IPD implemented concerning the management of Azeri-Armenian conflict.

On April 22, 2014 following the decision of the President of Azerbaijan, a joint group of investigators of the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of National Security was set up to “uncover a big network of spies of Armenia in Azerbaijan”.

On April 25, 2014, the appeal of Mr. Mirqadirov against restraint measure was rejected.

On the same day, Ms. Leyla Yunus along with Ms. Laura Bagdasaryan, Director of the “Region” Research Centre in Armenia, authored a statement denouncing Mr. Mirqadirov’s arrest and the set up of the joint group of investigators.

Action requested:

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

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

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Leyla Yunus, her relatives and more generally against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

iii. 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”;

iv. 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, April 30, 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.

[1] Mr. Rauf Mirqadirov was deprived journalist accreditation in Turkey without any formal reason, deported to Azerbaijan and arrested on his arrival to Baku on April 19, 2014 on charges of spying for Armenia. This procedure permits to avoid a process of extradition and leaves no opportunity for appeal (See background information).

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