European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Azerbaijan: Editor’s police brutality complaint wins human rights court support

An editor who claims he was assaulted by Azerbaijan police officers, who then planted illegal drugs on him, has won the support of human rights judges.

After considering the complaint brought by Hilal Alif oglu Mammadov, they found three violations of European human rights law and awarded 13,000 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 2,500 (costs and expenses) as just satisfaction.

Hilal Mammadov v. Azerbaijan (no. 81553/12)

The applicant, Hilal Alif oglu Mammadov, is an Azerbaijani national who was born in 1959 and lives in Baku. The case principally concerned his complaint of having been ill-treated by the police during his arrest and his allegedly unlawful pre-trial detention.

Mammadov, who at the time was the editor-in-chief of a newspaper published bilingually in Azerbaijani and the minority Talysh language, was assaulted by plain-clothes police officers in June 2012.

According to his submissions, they hit and kicked him and planted a bag containing drugs on him. Then they dragged him into their car and insulted him, making comments about his ethnic origin and threatening him on account of a video he had uploaded on YouTube. He only realised that he had been arrested by the police when they took him to the narcotics department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where an arrest record was drawn up which noted that drugs had been found on him. He made a written statement that the substance did not belong to him.

Mammadov was charged with a number of offences, in particular illegal possession of a large quantity of narcotic substances. Later new charges were added, namely incitement to ethnic, racial, social or religious hatred or hostility. He was placed in pre-trial detention and his appeals against the detention orders were dismissed. In September 2013 he was convicted of all charges and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, the judgment eventually being upheld in June 2014.

Following his arrest, Mammadov complained to the investigating authorities of having been ill-treated by the police. In August 2012 the Deputy Prosecutor General refused to open criminal proceedings in connection with that complaint. That decision was eventually upheld in November 2012.

Relying in particular on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Mammadov complained of having been ill-treated by the police and of the lack of an effective investigation into his allegation of ill-treatment. He further complained of a breach of his rights under Article 34 (right of individual petition), on account of the fact that his lawyer’s license to practice law had been suspended and it had been impossible to meet with him in prison.

Violation of Article 3 (inhuman and degrading treatment)
Violation of Article 3 (investigation)
Violation of Article 34

Just satisfaction: 13,000 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 2,500 (costs and expenses)

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