Azerbaijan: Ongoing arbitrary detention and deterioration of the health condition of Ms. Leyla Yunus

18/08/2014
Urgent Appeal

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
AZE 002 / 0414 / OBS 031.2
Arbitrary detention / Denial of medical care /
Judicial harassment
Azerbaijan
August 18, 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 arbitrary detention and deterioration of the health condition of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly.

According to the information received, 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.

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Leyla Yunus has been detained since July 30, 2014, when she was sentenced to three months pre-trial detention. Her husband, Mr. Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflictology Department of IPD, was also arrested on August 5, 2014 and placed in pre-trial detention for three months (see background information). Mr. Yunusov is also in great need for medical treatment as he would be in a pre-stroke condition. In April and May 2014, he got two heart attacks and consequently spent several weeks in hospital.

The Observatory also recalls that Messrs. Rasul Jafarov, prominent human rights defender engaged in the defence of the rights of political prisoners and leader of "Sing for Democracy" and "Art for Democracy", and Intigam Aliyev, Head of the Legal Enlightenment Society, were arrested respectively on August 2 and August 8, 2014 on the basis of spurious accusations, and are also allegedly in need of medical support[1]. Mr. Aliyev was initially detained in a cell with smokers, yet following the ICRC visit on August 12 he was transferred to a more spacious cell.

The Observatory is also concerned about the adequate healthcare and prison conditions of other human rights defenders who remain detained in relation to their human rights activities, including Mr. Anar Mammadli, Chairperson of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDSC), and Mr. Bashir Suleymani, Executive Director of EMDSC, who were arrested on December 16, 2013 and May 26, 2014 respectively. Moreover, Mr. Hilal Mammadov, a defender of the rights of the Talysh ethnic minority, who suffers asthma, is currently detained in one cell with former tubercular patients and prisoners suffering hepatitis and other diseases[2].

The Observatory also remains concerned about the circumstances and reasons as to why detained human rights defenders Mr. Hasan Huseynli, Head of the NGO "Educative Centre ’Intellectual Citizen’", and Mr. Emil Mammadov, Head of the NGO “Promoting Democracy”, sent letters on August 6 to President Ilham Aliyev, in which they express support for President Aliyev and the army of Azerbaijan. The Observatory strongly fears that they could have been subject to pressure in detention[3].

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about the ongoing detention and denial of effective medical care to Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov, which put their health at serious risk, as well as about the condition of the other above-mentioned human rights defenders. Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the authorities in Azerbaijan to provide adequate medical care to them 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[4] 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.

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 and all the above-mentioned human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

ii. Provide urgently adequate medical care to Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov, including medication and hospitalisation;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov from pre-trial detention, as well as all the other above-mentioned human rights defenders, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims 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.

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

· 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: z.qaralov@prosecutor.gov.az, info@prosecutor.gov.az

· 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: cpr@mns.gov.az

· 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: katiblik@mfa.gov.az

· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail: contact@justice.gov.az; 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: geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az

· 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, August 18, 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:

• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· 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

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