Azerbaijan: Acts of violence in prison against Ms. Leyla Yunus

Urgent Appeal


New information
AZE 002 / 0414 / OBS 031.3
Arbitrary detention / Denial of medical care /
Judicial harassment
September 12, 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 acts of violence in prison 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 September 6, 2014, Leyla Yunus was attacked by her cellmate who verbally harassed her and threw plates and dishes at her. 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. Leyla Yunus was informed that she would only be able to meet the prison administration on September 8. After the renewed insults, Ms. Yunus continued knocking at the door, and some 25 minutes later, three prison officers came to blame her for making noises.

She was taken out of the cell to prepare written explanations. 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.

The Observatory recalls as stated in previous communications its serious concerns regarding the denial of effective medical care to both Ms. Leyla Yunus and her husband, Mr. Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflictology Department of IPD, who is also placed under pre-trial detention.

The Observatory calls upon the authorities in Azerbaijan to ensure Leyla Yunus’ physical and psychological integrity by providing adequate medical care and appropriate protection measures as well as to release her immediately and unconditionally, as her detention seems to only aim at sanctioning her 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 [1] 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.

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

ii. Transfer Dr Yunus’s violent cellmate to another cell and conduct an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the above-mentioned assault, in order to identify those responsible and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;

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

iv. 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;

v. 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;

vi. 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”;

vii. 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.

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