AZERBAIJAN: Human rights defender Elchin Mammad must be freed!

30/09/2020
Statement

Paris-Geneva, September 30, 2020 - For the past six months, human rights lawyer and journalist Elchin Mammad has remained arbitrarily detained under trumped-up charges. Since then his health condition has kept deteriorating, putting his life at risk in the Covid-19 context. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an OMCT-FIDH partnership) urges the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.

Six months ago, on March 30, 2020, Elchin Mammad was arbitrarily arrested by the police at his home in the city of Sumgait, following the publication online of a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Elchin Mammad is a human rights lawyer, President of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), an NGO providing free legal assistance to low income families and non-profits, as well as the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine, which publishes articles on human rights concerns in the country.

On March 31, the Sumgait City Court remanded Elchin Mammad in custody at Shuvalan Pre-Trial Detention Center No.3 for three months as a criminal suspect under Article 177.2.4 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan (“theft causing significant damage”), after the police claimed to have found stolen jewellery at his office. Additional charges under Article 228. 1 of the Criminal Code (“illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories”) were subsequently brought against him, as the police allegedly found ammunitions during a second search of the SULESY offices while he was in detention.

Elchin Mammad was to be released on June 30, 2020. Yet he remains in detention as of today, as the Sumgait City Court rejected on several occasions his lawyer’s request for him to be placed under house arrest, extending his detention on remand for the duration of the trial.

Fears for the health of Elchin Mammad, who suffers from Hepatitis C, remain high given the overcrowding and poor prison conditions in Azerbaijan and the high risk of contracting Covid-19. The Observatory is highly concerned that his health has seriously deteriorated while in detention, as he has developed kidney issues and has also experienced swollen legs.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Elchin Mammad, which appears to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory reiterates its call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release Elchin Mammad immediately and unconditionally and to guarantee in all circumstances his physical integrity and psychological well-being.

The Observatory further urges the authorities to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Read more
statement