Azerbaijan: Human rights court set to rule on complaint alleging state involvement in journalist Elmar Huseynov’s murder

Later this week, the European Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgement on a complaint against Azerbaijan concerning the murder of a well-known journalist.

The court’s decision in the case Huseynova v. Azerbaijan (no. 10653/10) is expected on Thursday 13 April.

The applicant, Rushaniya Huseynova, is an Azerbaijani national who was born in 1978 and lives in Norway. She was the wife of Elmar Huseynov, a prominent independent journalist who wrote strongly critical articles of the Government as well as the opposition.

He was shot dead outside their apartment as he returned home from work on 2 March 2005.

A criminal investigation into the murder was immediately instituted and numerous investigative steps were taken. Among other things, the scene of the crime was inspected, a post-mortem examination carried out, forensic examinations ordered and Huseynova was questioned as a witness.

In May 2005, two Georgian nationals were identified as suspects by the investigation and international warrants for their arrest were issued. Soon after, the Azerbaijani authorities asked the Georgian authorities to extradite the two suspects. The Georgian authorities refused on the grounds that the suspects were Georgian nationals and could not be extradited to a foreign country; however, they undertook to prosecute the suspects at the Azerbaijani authorities’ request if the criminal case was transferred to them.

Since then, the Georgian authorities have conducted various investigative actions – such as the search of two flats in Tbilisi and the questioning of various people, including one of the suspects – at the request of their Azerbaijani counterparts, but the investigation is currently apparently still ongoing with no perpetrators having yet been prosecuted.

Throughout the proceedings, Huseynova wrote to the investigating authorities enquiring about the progress in the investigation and complaining that, although she had been recognised as a victim, she had not been provided with any information. She was told that the investigation was ongoing and that, under the relevant domestic law, she had the right to familiarise herself with the case file only when the preliminary investigation was over.

Relying in particular on Article 2 (right to life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression), Huseynova alleges that the State was behind the murder of her husband because of his work as a journalist and that the authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation. She argues in particular that the State knew or ought to have known about a risk to his life, as he had been regularly threatened and targeted in numerous legal proceedings brought against him by various public officials.

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