Azerbaijan: torture, impunity and corruption in law enforcement remain systemic and widespread - new anti-torture committee publications

Strasbourg, France 18 July 2018
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Azerbaijan: torture, impunity and corruption in law enforcement remain systemic and widespread - new anti-torture committee publications

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today reports on six of its visits to Azerbaijan – in 2004, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 – together with the responses of the Azerbaijani Government. Thus, all of the CPT’s reports on its visits to Azerbaijan have now been made public.

The CPT’s overall impression of the situation in Azerbaijan is that torture and other forms of physical ill-treatment by the police, other law enforcement agencies and the army, corruption in the whole law enforcement system and impunity remain systemic, widespread and endemic. The findings of the 2017 ad hoc visit suggest the existence of a generalised culture of violence among the staff of various law enforcement agencies.

Besides, there is a serious problem of impunity and lack of proper investigation of ill-treatment allegations, as well as and ineffective legal safeguards for detained persons, such as access to a lawyer, notification of custody, access to a doctor, receiving information on rights.

Further, despite legislative reforms and efforts to renovate old and build new prisons, there is an ongoing problem of prison overcrowding, poor material conditions, lack of activities (especially for remand and life-sentenced prisoners), inadequate medical care and insufficient and poorly paid prison staff. These issues make it harder to fight corruption and prevent inter-prisoner violence.

The published reports also highlight serious problems in psychiatric hospitals and social care homes, including poor living conditions, violence between patients (especially at Ganja Psychiatric Hospital) and lack of effective legal safeguards for involuntary patients. Despite repeated CPT’s recommendations, the situation remained unsatisfactory at the Psycho-neurological Social Care Institution No. 3 in Qırıqlı, Göygöl district, where female residents were exposed to ill-treatment by staff and physical assaults by fellow residents, staff numbers were grossly insufficient, therapeutic activities were badly lacking and the legal procedure for initial placement and its periodic review was not applied in practice.

The Committee nonetheless welcomes the decision of the Azerbaijani authorities to publish all these reports, which could signal a new commitment to transparency in confronting many of the serious issues raised by the CPT.

“Azerbaijan’s decision to publish all reports which have so far remained confidential is a major breakthrough; it heralds a new era in our co-operation with Azerbaijan and is a clear indication of the authorities’ resolve to enhance their dialogue with the Committee and to address effectively the serious problems the Committee has highlighted,” said Mykola Gnatovskyy, CPT President.

“It is high time that the Azerbaijani authorities took decisive action to stamp out torture in the country and implement to the fullest extent the Committee’s recommendations”, he stressed. As a first step, as repeatedly stated in the past, the anti-torture committee wishes to see the highest-level political authorities in the country making a public, firm and unequivocal statement of “zero tolerance” towards torture and other forms of ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in Azerbaijan.

“The CPT looks forward to the continuation of its co-operation with the authorities to assist Azerbaijan to live up to its obligations on the prohibition of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Committee’s President said.