The Committee of Ministers has closed infringement proceedings launched against Azerbaijan for failing to implement a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov. The decision follows a ruling from the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan in April quashing the convictions of Mr Mammadov and his compatriot Rasul Jafarov, who also won a case at the ECHR, and awarding the two men compensation for damages resulting from their unlawful arrest and imprisonment.
“Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Council of Europe member states are obliged to implement judgments from Strasbourg court. The unprecedented and successful use of the infringement procedure shows that our members take this obligation very seriously,” said Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić. “It also demonstrates, once again, that the convention system has the power to make a real difference to people’s lives and to help bring about positive changes across the continent.”
In 2014, the ECHR found that the arrest and detention of Mr Mammadov took place in the absence of any reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and that the actual purpose of the criminal proceedings was to punish him for criticising the government. Due to a lack of progress in releasing the applicant and removing the consequences of the violations against him, the Committee of Ministers – which supervises the execution of judgments from the ECHR – launched infringement proceedings in December 2017, asking the ECHR to consider whether Azerbaijan had failed to fulfil its obligation to abide by the court’s 2014 judgment.
In its response to that request in May 2019, the ECHR underlined that the authorities’ actions had been driven by improper motives, contrary to the human rights convention, and Azerbaijan was required to eliminate the consequences of the violations suffered by the applicant. In April 2020, the Azerbaijani authorities informed the Committee of Ministers that the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan had re-examined the cases of both Mr Mammadov and Rasul Jafarov and quashed their convictions in the light of the ECHR’s May 2019 judgment.
The government of Azerbaijan requested that all of the pending cases concerning Mr Mammadov and Mr Jafarov therefore be closed. That request was supported by Mr Mammadov in a submission to the Committee in June 2020. The Committee of Ministers agreed to close these cases, including the infringement proceedings, during its latest regular meeting to supervise the implementation of ECHR judgments. However, the Committee also expressed serious concern that the convictions of six applicants in a similar group of cases still stand and the applicants continue to face negative consequences of the charges brought against them. Further information was requested concerning a seventh applicant. The Committee also underlined that effective and holistic measures are essential to achieve tangible progress in ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the prosecuting authorities in Azerbaijan, as a safeguard against any future misuse of the criminal law against government critics and human rights defenders. It will resume its consideration of this issue in December 2020.