Two Azerbaijani human rights defenders acquitted by the Supreme Court

Two Azerbaijani human rights defenders, supported by Trust grantee European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), have been acquitted following arrest and detention in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The two men are part of a group known collectively as the Ilgar Mammadov group, which is comprised of eight government critics, civil society activists and human rights defenders. These individuals had all been subjected to “retaliatory prosecutions” by the authorities, as found in judgements by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In September 2019, the Committee of Ministers (CoM) of the Council of Europe called upon the Azerbaijani authorities to quash the conviction decisions and delete the criminal records of the eight applicants.

Prominent human rights defender, Rasul Jafarof, was arrested in 2015 and served a 20-month prison sentence for a conviction aimed to punish him for his human rights work. On 23rd April 2020, he was cleared of all charges after pursuing his case following the ECtHR’s ruling in March 2016 that his arrest and detention had no legal or evidential bias. The Azerbaijani Government was found to have failed to properly implement the judgement in Jafarov’s case for over four years. His criminal conviction had continued to restrict his civil and political rights even after he was freed from jail in 2016: he was prevented from taking a bar examination, and in January 2020, the Azerbaijani authorities refused to permit his registration as an electoral candidate on the basis of his criminal record.

Ilgar Mammadov, the chairman of Azerbaijan’s opposition Republican Alternative Party (ReAL), has also been acquitted by the Supreme Court with support from EHRAC. The ECtHR found in 2014 that his arrest and detention for publishing a critical blog post had been unjustified, and that it was aimed to silence or punish him for criticising the Government.

In a public statement addressing the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit both men, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić reiterated an earlier statement by the CoM that “the execution of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgements requires the elimination of all of consequences of the criminal charges brought against them.”

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