Azerbaijan: Denial of a lawsuit filed by Mr. Hilal Mammadov, a minority rights defender and editor-in-chief of the Tolishi-Sado

31/08/2012
Urgent Appeal
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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan about the denial of a lawsuit filed by Mr. Hilal Mammadov, a minority rights defender and editor-in-chief of the Tolishi-Sado (Voice of Talysh) newspaper[1].

According to the information received, on July 31, 2012, the Nasimi District Court of Baku City denied the complaint that Mr. Mammadov had filed to denounce acts of torture and ill-treatment he suffered in the framework of a criminal case brought against him in late June 2012 (see background information). Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers claimed that the investigating authorities had violated the Criminal Procedure Code.

On that day, the judge of the Nasimi District Court argued that the lawsuit brought by Mr. Mammadov did not comply with the provisions of Article 449 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Azerbaijan (“complaints to the court concerning procedural acts or decisions of the prosecuting authority”), and subsequently closed the hearing without listening to the opinions of Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers.

On August 29, 2012, the Nasimi District Court further rejected the appeal that Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers had filed against this decision. While the hearing was expected to be open, the judge decided to hold a closed trial, so that journalists and members of the committee created in support of Mr. Mammadov had to wait for the court’s decision from the street. It is to be noted that four hours passed before the judge of the Nasimi District Court issued the verdict.

In addition, on August 27, 2012, the Deputy General Prosecutor also had refused to open proceedings on the complaint that Mr. Hilal Mammadov lodged in June against the acts of torture and ill-treatment he suffered during the first days of his detention. His lawyers will now appeal this decision before the Court of Appeals and then eventually lodge a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights.

The Observatory strongly denounces the arbitrary decision of the Court, and considers it as an obvious attempt to silence Mr. Mammadov’s efforts to report acts of torture against himself.

The Observatory recalls that the authorities have to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law to protect the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to bringing to justice those responsible for violating this right.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the competent authorities to undertake a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the aforementioned allegations, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply adequate sanctions.

The Observatory more generally denounces his ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, and remains concerned with his conditions of detention. The Observatory recalls that former Tolishi-Sado editor-in-chief, Mr. Novruzali Mammedov, was subjected to similar acts of harassment and arbitrary detention in 2007, and eventually died in custody on August 17, 2009[2].

The Observatory therefore calls upon the Azerbaijani authorities to guarantee in all circumstances Mr. Hilal Mammadov’s physical and psychological integrity and release him immediately and unconditionally, as well as to put an end to the continuing judicial harassment against him, since such practices seem to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities.

Background information:

On June 21, 2012, Mr. Hilal Mammadov was arrested in relation to a criminal case opened against him by the Nasimi District Police under Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code (“illegal manufacture, purchase, storage, transfer, transport or sale of drugs in a large quantity”). The authorities alleged having seized five grams of heroin from him and about 30 grams at his place of residence. Article 234.4 provides penalties ranging from confiscation of property to imprisonment for up to 12 years. On June 22, 2012, the Nasimi District Court sentenced Mr. Hilal Mammadov to 3 months of pre-trial detention.

On the same day, Mr. Mammadov met with his lawyer, who discovered and photographed injuries on his leg, and subsequently lodged a complaint for torture.

On July 4, 2012, the accusations of illegal possession of drugs were contradicted by a joint statement of the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, which states that Mr. Mammadov was in reality arrested on June 21, 2012 on the basis of information about his supposed “cooperation with the intelligence agency of a foreign country”, “activities against the security and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan”, as well as “incitement of national, racial and religious hatred”. According to the authors of the statement, Mr. Mammadov had supposedly become an agent of foreign secret services 20 years ago. Mr. Mammadov was deprived from food and water on the first two days of his detention.

On July 4, 2012, new trumped-up charges were therefore brought against Mr. Mammadov under other Articles of the Criminal Code, i.e. Article 274 (“treason”) and Article 283.2.2 (“inciting national, racial, social and religious hatred, hostility and ethnic discrimination”). The investigators confiscated as evidence a notebook computer as well as drives containing information. The criminal case launched against him by the Nasimi District Prosecutor’s Office was transferred to the Department for Grave Crimes under the General Prosecutor’s Office.

In addition, on July 12, 2012, the Grave Crimes Investigation Department, attached to the State Prosecutor’s Office, decided to test Mr. Mammadov’s blood and urine. The detainee was taken to the Republican Drug Rehab Centre in a stuffy car alongside 20 drug addicts and TB sufferers. At the hospital, Mr. Mammadov refused to take this test, alleging that he had been brutally beaten by employees of the Ministry of Interior. The detainee, who suffers from asthma, also claimed that he considered this action as degradation of personal honor and an attempt on his life. It is to be further noted that this decision was taken 21 days after he was arrested and notwithstanding he had been sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention on the following day on the grounds of drug charges,

On July 25, 2012, Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers appealed against the decision issued on June 22 to sentence him to three months pre-trial detention. However, due to an oversight of the postal service employees, the date was written as July 26 on the letter, resulting in the rejection of the appeal, since the deadline to appeal against a decision is 72 hours. On August 9, 2012, the judge nevertheless decided that the deadline was not missed and ordered to refer the appeal to the Court of Appeal.

It is to be further noted that Mr. Mammadov’s lawyers were asked to sign a commitment to the secrecy of the investigation, leaving serious doubts that the investigating authorities mean to keep the information about his case secret.

Mr. Hilal Mammadov remains detained in the premises of the Investigative Prison in Baku.

Action requested:

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

i. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Hilal Mammadov, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Hilal Mammadov as well as of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

iii. Release Mr. Hilal Mammadov immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iv. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Hilal Mammadov 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 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”;

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
· Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 492 06 82, +994 12 492 26 63, E-mail: eldar_sultanov@prosecutor.gov.az
· Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Home Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax: + 994 12 492 45 90
· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail: minjus@azdata.net, contact@justice.gov.az; Tel (99412) 430 09 77, Fax + 99412 430 09 81
· Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, E-mail: geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az Fax: +4122 901 18 44
· Azerbaijani Embassy in Brussels, Avenue Moliere, 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 345 26 60, 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.

***

Paris-Geneva, August 31, 2012

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT 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 FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] The Talysh people is an ethnic minority living in the south of Azerbaijan.

[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal AZE 001 / 0808 / OBS 139.7.

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