European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Azerbaijan: Court set for judgement in new Ilgar Mammadov human rights complaint

Later this week, the European Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgement on a complaint brought by Ilgar Mammadov against Azerbaijan.

The court is set to announce its decision in the case Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan (no. 2) (no. 919/15) on Thursday 16 November.

The complaint concerns the criminal proceedings brought against Mammadov, a prominent Azerbaijani opposition, who is currently serving a sevenyear prison sentence following his conviction in 2014 of mass disorder.

Mammadov has a history of criticising the Azerbaijani Government and had announced his intention to stand as candidate in the November 2013 presidential elections.

However, he was unable to do so because he was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention following protests in the town of Ismayilli on 24 January 2013.

He was in particular accused of organising public disorder (subsequently replaced with the charge of mass disorder) and violent resistance to the police, apparently for having told protestors to throw stones at the police.

In March 2014, Mammadov was convicted as charged at first instance. After a series of appeals, his conviction and sentence were eventually upheld in November 2016 by the Supreme Court.

In convicting him, the domestic courts essentially relied on statements by witnesses for the prosecution (mainly police officers), letters written by the law-enforcement authorities, video recordings, contemporaneous news coverage, Mammadov’s blog posts and social media posts as well as a transcript of an interview with Azadliq Radio.

The courts dismissed the statements of all the defence witnesses (most of them journalists) as untruthful, finding that they knew Mammadov personally and therefore wanted to help him.

Throughout the proceedings, Mammadov repeatedly lodged objections about flawed or misrepresented evidence, which were all dismissed.

Mammadov has lodged a previous application with the European Court of Human Rights to complain about his arrest and pre-trial detention following the Ismayilli riots.

In 2014, the court delivered a judgment, Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan (no. 15172/13), finding that Mammadov had been arrested and detained without any evidence to reasonably suspect him of having committed a criminal offence and concluding that the actual purpose of his detention had been to silence or punish him for criticising the government.

The enforcement of this judgment, in particular with regard to Mammadov’s release, is still currently underway before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

In the present application, Mammadov complains under Article 6 (right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) about a number of defects in the criminal proceedings against him.

He alleges in particular: that the judgment against him was ill-reasoned and that his conviction had been based on flawed and manifestly wrongly assessed evidence;

that the domestic courts had not duly examined the defence’s objections and requests concerning the admission of evidence and conduct of the proceedings;

that the defence had not been given proper access to the transcripts of the trial hearings, either before or after the trial, and had not been allowed to use laptop and tablet computers during the trial hearings; and that the entire proceedings had lasted too long.

He also makes a number of other complaints under Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination), Article 17 (prohibition of abuse of rights) and Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) in conjunction with Article 6, alleging that the proceedings against him had been discriminatory because he is an opposition politician and had been used to remove him from the political stage.

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