The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expressed its deep concern that, despite previous calls, the national authorities in Azerbaijan have not submitted any information on the individual measures demonstrating tangible progress in the implementation of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights (“The Court”) in the case of Mammadov group.
Furthermore, the Committee of Minister underlined that the continuing failure to resolve the applicants’ cases is particularly worrying in the light of the findings of the Court and urged the Azerbaijani authorities to put an immediate end to this situation by ensuring that all the necessary measures are taken in respect of all these applicants as a matter of priority.
The Court in its judgement Ilgar Mammodov of May 29, 2019, ordered restitutio in integrum, and urgently required the quashing of the applicants’ convictions, their erasure from their criminal records and the elimination of all other consequences of the criminal charges brought against them, including by fully restoring their civil and political rights.
Background of the case
The nine applicants in this group (the former Ilgar Mammadov group) are human rights defenders, civil society activities and a journalist. They were all the subjects of arrests and detention in 2013-2016 by the national authorities in Azerbaijan, which the European Court of Human Rights (“The Court”) found to constitute a misuse of criminal law, intended to punish and silence them.
The Court established that the applicants’ arrest and detention took place in the absence of any reasonable suspicion that he or she had committed an offence (violations of Article 5. § 1(c)) in Mammadli, Ibrahimov and Mammadov, Khadija Ismayilova (No. 2) and Yunusova and Yunusov.
The Court also found that the domestic courts had not conducted a genuine review of the lawfulness of the detention (Article 5. § (4) in Mammadli, Aliyev, Ibrahimov and Mamadov, Khadija Ismayilova and Yunusova and Yunusov).
The Court concluded that the actual purpose of the criminal proceedings was to punish the applicants for their activities or prevent their further work and that the restriction of the applicants’ rights was applied for purposes other than those prescribed by the Convention (violations of Article 18 taken in conjunction with Article 5 in Mammadli, Ibrahimov and Mamadov, Khadija Ismayilova and Yunusova and Yunusov).
In Azizov and Novruzlu the Court found that the authorities had failed to give relevant and sufficient reasons to justify the need for the extension of the applicants’ pre-trial detention, and that the ulterior purpose of the restriction of the applicants’ liberty resulting in their continued pre-trial detention constituted the predominant purpose, which was to punish and silence them for their activities (violations of Article 5. § (3) and of Article 18 taken in conjunction with Article § 3).
Furthermore, in the Aliyev judgement, the Court noted with concern that the events under examination in the series of cases, in which it had found violations of Article 18, could not be considered isolated incidents. The cases reflected a troubling pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions of government critics, civil society activists and human rights defenders through retaliatory prosecutions and misuse of criminal law in defiance of the rule of law, and that the actions of the State gave rise to a risk of further repetitive applications.
More recently the Ibrahimov and Mammadov, Khadija Ismayilova and Yunusova and Yunusov cases were also found to constitute a part of this pattern.
Finally, in certain cases, the Court found the following additional violations:
- inhuman and degrading treatment by the police with a view to obtaining confessions and ineffective investigation in this respect (substantive and procedural limbs of Article 3)
- degrading treatment on account of conditions of detention (Article 3)
- degrading treatment on account of confinement in a metal cage during a court hearing (Article 3)
- a violation of presumption of innocence (Article 6 §(2))
- interference with the right to respect for private life on account of search and seizure at the applicants’ home and office (Article 8)
- a violation of the applicants’ freedom of expression on account of their prosecution for drug-related crimes in retaliation for their political expression (Article 10)
- unlawful freezing of bank accounts (Article 1 of Protocol 1), lack of effective remedies (Article 13), and breach to the right of individual petition (Article 34).