The Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe INGO Conference calls for the release of prominent blogger Mehman Huseynov, a political prisoner who has been jailed since March 2017 on charges of defamation after Mr Huseynov had filed a complaint and spoke publicly about his torture in police custody.
The new charges (“resisting a representative of the authorities with the use of violence dangerous to his health and life”) are widely seen as a reaction to Mr Huseynov’s unveiling of abuse of power and the exercise of his right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Mr Huseynov is in a critical condition as he has been on a hunger strike since 26 December in protest against the new, charges that have been brought against him. Reporters Without Borders claim in their 31 December statement that Mr Huseynov was then already very weak and could not walk without help, when his lawyers visited him in solitary confinement on 28 December.
Mr Huseynov was expecting to leave prison in March 2019, but with the new charges, he could face an additional seven-year sentence. The abuse of penal instruments to silence opposition is a variation on the abuse of the judiciary, which was previously condemned by the European Court of Human Rights and is an alarming trend attacking peaceful dissent in Azerbaijan – including civil society activists, journalists, bloggers, and ordinary citizens.
We call upon the authorities of Azerbaijan to withdraw the new charges and provide all necessary medical care to Mr Mehman Huseynov.
We call upon the member States and organs of the Council of Europe to consider this case in priority and to insist on a review of Mr Huseynov case in order to withdraw the new charges against him.
Furthermore, we urge the member States and organs of the Council of Europe to reinforce their political dialogue with the authorities of Azerbaijan regarding other peaceful human rights activists in Azerbaijan who are jailed. As long as evident violations of Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR exist in Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe bodies should monitor the situation and condemn these violations - the Organisation should not ignore this situation, engaging in business as usual with Azerbaijan.
As Mehman Huseynov’s life is in danger, the Committee welcomes prompt intervention from the Council of Europe Secretary GeneralThorbjørn Jagland and Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović on this case.
We also call on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to consider holding an urgent debate during the First Part of the 2019 Session to address deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan, incompatible with the Council of Europe standards and obligations.