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PACE committee finds Azerbaijan has a ‘systemic’ problem of political prisoners, urges reform and review of reported cases

Strasbourg, France 10 December 2019
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PACE committee finds Azerbaijan has a ‘systemic’ problem of political prisoners, urges reform and review of reported cases

PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has found that, on the basis of factual findings of the European Court of Human Rights, a number of individuals are “political prisoners” according to the Assembly's definition. Recalling the Court’s finding of a “troubling pattern” of politically motivated misuse of the criminal justice system, and the significant number of similar cases pending before the Court, the committee said that “fundamental reforms are necessary if Azerbaijan is to fulfil its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights”.

It “welcomed the steps taken by the Azerbaijani authorities in recent years to reform its penitentiary, criminal justice and judicial systems”, although it remained “unconvinced that the measures taken thus far will suffice to achieve the specific results required by the European Court of Human Rights”.

It also considered that the Court's judgments “confirmed the credibility of the most extensive, detailed and regularly updated lists”, and that “persons featuring on these lists can be presumed to be political prisoners... This presumption is rebuttable, but only after careful review by an independent and impartial body.” Azerbaijan's acceptance of this approach “would demonstrate [its] willingness to resolve individual cases without the need for intervention by the European Court of Human Rights”.

Amongst other proposals, the committee urged the authorities to recognise the existence of the “troubling pattern” as a “necessary precondition for the success of measures required to implement [the Court's] judgments fully and effectively”. It further called on the Azerbaijan parliament to co-operate with the Rapporteur on her follow-up to the Assembly's resolution, and on the Azerbaijani government to co-operate fully with the Committee of Ministers.

The committee was particularly attentive to the cases of Ilgar Mammadov, Anar Mammadli and Rasul Jafarov; in particular, they must ensure that Mr Mammadov and Mr Mammadli may stand as candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.