Strasbourg, 12.03.2021 – The Committee of Ministers of the 47-nation Council of Europe exhorts the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately restore the rights of human rights activists and government critics, as required by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the Mammadli group of cases against Azerbaijan. The Committee's Interim Resolution (*) on this group was published following its latest meeting to supervise the execution of the ECHR judgments.
The Committee of Ministers recalls that, in respect of each applicant in this group of cases, the European Court found a violation of Article 18 in conjunction with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, revealing "a troubling pattern of arbitrary arrest and detention 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".
The Committee deeply deplores that notwithstanding its persistent and repeated indications, the seriousness of the Court's findings and the urgency of the required measures, the abusive criminal convictions of the applicants still stand and they continue to suffer the negative consequences of the criminal charges brought to silence and punish them, in breach of the European Convention on human rights and in defiance of the principle of the rule of law.
The Committee recalls the decisions adopted by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan in April 2020 quashing the convictions of Mr Ilgar Mammadov and Mr Rasul Jafarov and awarding them compensation for non-pecuniary damage resulting from their unlawful arrest and imprisonment. Following these decisions, in September 2020 the Committee of Ministers closed its supervision of their cases.
In its Interim Resolution, the Committee firmly reiterates that, as confirmed by the Court, the full restitution (restitutio in integrum) in the remaining cases of the group requires the quashing of the applicants' convictions, their erasure form 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.
The Committee exhorts the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that all the necessary individual measures are taken in respect of all the applicants as a matter of key priority and with utmost urgency, and the relevant information is submitted to the Committee by 30 April 2021 at the latest.
As regards general measures, the Committee calls for targeted and effective steps to address the root causes of these violations, in particular the misuse of the criminal law and retaliatory prosecutions, which could include the implementation of the relevant recommendations of the Group of States against Corruption to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the prosecutor's office. The Committee notes finally with interest, the information provided by the authorities on the measures for abandoning the practice of placing defendants in metal cages during court hearings.
(*) An Interim Resolution is a form of decision adopted by the Committee of Ministers aimed at overcoming more complex situations requiring special attention.