Court: Azerbaijani authorities arrested and detained activist as punishment for vote criticism

Human rights judges have confirmed that Azerbaijani authorities arrested and detained well-known activist to punish him for his work criticising electoral irregularities.

The case Mammadli v. Azerbaijan (application no. 47145/14) concerned the arrest and detention of a well-known Azerbaijani civil society activist and human rights defender, Anar Asaf oglu Mammadli.

He runs several non-governmental organisations involved in election monitoring. He was arrested in December 2013 and held in pre-trial detention until his conviction in May 2014 for a number of offences, including illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of power.

In its 20 April Chamber judgment in the case the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights because the facts relied on by the prosecuting authorities, namely that Mr Mammadli had not complied with legal administrative formalities while carrying out his NGO work, had not been sufficient to suspect him of having committed the offences with which he had been charged.

Nor had they provided any other information or evidence which could serve as a basis for the suspicion underpinning his arrest and detention.

a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) of the European Convention because the courts had not carried out a proper judicial review of Mammadli’s detention, and a violation of Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) in conjunction with Article 5, finding that Mammadli’s arrest and detention had not been to bring him before a competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence, but had been part of a larger campaign to crack down on human rights defenders in Azerbaijan in 2014.

Under the terms of Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Azerbaijan was to pay Mammadli 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 for costs and expenses.

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