Cases in Azerbaijan

Recent years have brought an intensified crackdown on the exercise of fundamental human rights in Azerbaijan that has shocked even seasoned observers. Since 2011, the authorities in Azerbaijan have imprisoned over 160 journalists, political opposition leaders, grassroots activists, human rights defenders, and lawyers, without any regard for protections under domestic or international law.

Breaking Point Azerbaijan: Promotion and glamour abroad, Repression and imprisonment at home

Report cover for websiteAn in-depth analysis of these cases and the various domestic and international laws violated by Azerbaijan is included in the Freedom Now and Human Rights House Network report:  Breaking Point in Azerbaijan: Promotion and glamour abroad, Repression and imprisonment at home.

 

Repression Beyond Borders: Exiled Azerbaijanis in Georgia

A joint report with International Partnership for Human Rights and Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center that presents the findings of the investigation of the three NGOs into the circumstances of journalist Afgan Mukhtarli’s abduction; harassment and threats directed towards Azerbaijani exiled dissidents; cases of the unfounded rejection of applications for asylum and residency permits by Georgia on dubious and opaque state security and public order grounds; as well as cases of dissidents denied entry into Georgia despite the country’s visa-free travel agreement with Azerbaijan.

 

 

Past Cases

Intigam Aliyev is one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights lawyers. In April 2015 he was sentenced to seven and one-half years on charges of tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of authority. He was released in March 2016.

 

 

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev is a democracy activist and a former parliamentary candidate in the November 2010 election. On May 18, 2011, an Azerbaijani court convicted Mr. Hajiyev of military evasion and sentenced him to two years in prison. He was released in June 2012.

 

 

Adnan Hajizade is a human rights activist, social media blogger, and promoter of non-violent democracy advocacy in Azerbaijan. He was serving a two year prison sentence in Azerbaijan on charges of “hooliganism” from July 8, 2009. He was released in November 2010.

 

 

Khadija Ismayilova is a journalist who was arrested in December 2014 and ordered to serve a seven and one-half year prison sentence on politically motivated charges of tax evasion, embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of power. She was released in May 2016.

 

 

Rasul Jafarov is a human rights activist who was sentenced in April 2015 to six and one-half years on charges of tax evasion, illegal business activities, and abuse of authority for his work exposing rights abuses in Azerbaijan – especially the politically motivated imprisonment of journalists, activists, and opposition leaders. He was released in March 2016.

 

Anar Mammadli and Bashir Sulemanli are civil society leaders who were sentenced to five and one-half years and three and one-half years in prison, respectively, on charges of tax evasion, illegal business activities, and abuse of office. Prior to their imprisonment, both men led Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), a respected non-governmental organization in Azerbaijan that worked to protect democratic rights in the country through a variety of initiatives, including election monitoring. EMDS had been prevented by the Azerbaijan government from officially registering as an NGO. Mr. Sulemanli was released in March 2015 and Mr. Mammadli was released in March 2016.

 

Hilal Mammadov is an editor and minority rights activist who was arrested on June 21, 2012 and sentenced to five years in prison on fabricated charges. The government charged Mr. Mammadov—an active member of the ethnically Iranian Talysh minority group—with drug possession, treason, and inciting hatred. He was released from prison in March 2016.

 

Ilgar Mammadov is an Azerbaijani opposition leader who was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2014 on charges of organizing mass disorder and resisting arrest after he criticized the government’s handling of demonstrations and unrest in the countryside. He was granted conditional release in August 2018.

 

Omar Mammadov is a youth activist and blogger who was sentenced in July 2014 to a five year prison term on fabricated narcotics charges. He was released from prison in March 2016.

 

 

Emin Milli is a human rights activist, social media blogger, and promoter of non-violent democracy advocacy in Azerbaijan. He was serving a two and one-half year prison sentence in Azerbaijan on charges of “hooliganism” from July 8, 2009. He was released in November 2010.

 

 

The Nida Civic Movement is an association of young activists in Azerbaijan that was formed in early 2011 to “defend the constitutional and human rights of the society, and preserve the democratic and republican value.” In response to their peaceful activism, eight of the group’s members were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to eight years on fabricated charges, including weapons possession, narcotics possession, and organizing mass riots. By March 2016 all eight members had been released from prison.

 

Leyla Yunus is a longtime activist and human rights defender who was arrested on July 30, 2014 and charged with tax evasion, abuse of authority, and illegal business activities. Authorities also arrested Leyla’s husband, the academic and activist Arif Yunus who was initially released on bail because of ill-health, but was subsequently re-detained on August 5, 2014. The couple were released on put on probation in December 2015.

 

Selected documents from Cases in Azerbaijan's case
25 Organizations Express Concern Over EBRD's StatementsMay 9, 2017

Freedom Now joined 24 organizations in a letter to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development expressing serious concern about recent statements concerning the EITI and its decision to suspend Azerbaijan.

A Dissident Is Free From Jail but His Punishment Is Not OverJune 24, 2011

New York Times article on Freedom Now's former client Emin Milli.

Anniversary of Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest highlights Azerbaijan’s repressionDecember 4, 2015

Sport for Rights statement on the anniversary of Khadija Ismayilova's arrest

Azerbaijani Court Orders Return of Leyla and Arif YunusMay 17, 2017

Today, the Baku Court of Appeals rejected a motion by Leyla and Arif Yunus’ lawyer to allow his clients to take part in their appeal trial via a video link. The court ordered the couple to return to Azerbaijan from the Netherlands to participate in the appeal hearing.

Azerbaijani Journalist Khadija Ismayilova Released from PrisonMay 25, 2016

Freedom Now is pleased to announce that journalist Khadija Ismayilova was released from prison today after nearly 18 months of wrongful imprisonment.

Breaking Point AzerbaijanMay 12, 2015

A joint report with the Human Rights House Network that provides an in-depth analysis of the cases listed above and the various domestic and international laws violated by Azerbaijan.

Council of Europe Launches Infringement ProceedingsDecember 5, 2017

Freedom Now welcomes today’s decision by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to launch infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan for its continued failure to implement the judgement rendered by the European Court of Human Rights in Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan.

Crackdown on Free Expression Accelerates With Conviction of Prominent BloggerMarch 3, 2017

The undersigned organisations condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s sentencing of Mehman Huseynov, Azerbaijani journalist and chairman of the country’s leading freedom of expression group, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, to two years in jail on defamation charges.

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Requires Significant Reforms from AzerbaijanOctober 31, 2016

Freedom Now joins 17 international NGOs in welcoming the decision by the EITI not to restore Azerbaijan’s status in the Initiative, but calls for further steps to address civil society crackdown.

Free Azerbaijani Journalist Mehman HuseynovMay 3, 2017

Freedom Now joins 32 organizations in calling for the release of blogger Mehman Huseynov on World Press Freedom Day.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseNovember 19, 2010

Announcing the release of Mr. Emin Milli from detention in Azerbaijan.

Freedom Now Supports Azerbaijan Human Rights ResolutionSeptember 27, 2017

Freedom Now applauds U.S. Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for introducing House Resolution 537 entitled “Promoting United States national security and foreign policy objectives through consolidation and strengthening of the rule of law and respect for human rights in the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

Freedom Now To Protest Hanukkah Party Co-Hosted by Embassy of Azerbaijan and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish OrganizationsDecember 14, 2016

On December 14th, 2016 Freedom Now and other human rights organizations gathered in front of the Trump International Hotel to highlight the continued repression of civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan.

Houston Chronicle: Sister City Violates Houston ValuesNovember 3, 2017

Freedom Now Board Member Joshua Newcomer and former Congressman Chris Bell urge the city of Houston to terminate its sister city relationship with Baku, Azerbaijan.

Human Rights Defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus Leaves Azerbaijan for the NetherlandsApril 19, 2016

Freedom Now is pleased to announce that today Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were finally allowed to travel out of the country and have arrived in the Netherlands.

Independent Media Under Unprecedented AttackMay 3, 2016

Azerbaijan’s independent media is under greater attack than ever before. The undersigned members of the Sport for Rights coalition condemn the Azerbaijani authorities’ relentless crackdown on the independent media and other critical voices.

International Bar Association Honors Azerbaijani Lawyer Intigam Aliyev with 2015 Human Rights AwardOctober 9, 2015

Freedom Now statement on IBA award presentation to Intigam Aliyev

Joint Submission to the UN Human Rights CouncilOctober 9, 2017

Freedom Now joined Article 19, Reporters without Borders, PEN International, International Media Support, the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, and the Index on Censorship in submitting a report to the UN Human Rights Council for Azerbaijan's Universal Periodic Review.

Law Students for Human Rights letter to Azerbaijan EmbassyJune 30, 2015

More than 50 law students sent a letter to the Azerbaijan Embassy calling for the release Intigam Aliyev.

Legislative Amendments Raise AlarmNovember 8, 2017

Civic Solidarity Platform members and partner organizations deplore amendments to the Code of Civil and Administrative Procedure and the Bar Act, which directly contravene Azerbaijan’s international human rights obligations and severely hinder the functioning of independent lawyers in the country.

Letter from 5 U.S. SenatorsAugust 5, 2013

Calling on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to facilitate Mr. Hajiyev's release.

Letter from 5 US Senators to President AliyevMay 12, 2015

Calling on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to facilitate Mr. Hajiyev's release.

Letter to PACE on a Rapporteur to Examine the Issue of Political Prisoners in AzerbaijanJune 13, 2018

Freedom Now joins 41 NGOs in issuing an appeal to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to request the appointment of a Rapporteur to examine the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Letter to Secretary Kerry from Human Rights Groups and Former DiplomatsApril 15, 2015

Human rights organizations and former diplomats ask Secretary Kerry to take action on Azerbaijan

Letter to the Members of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Board on the Working Conditions of Civil Society in AzerbaijanOctober 20, 2016

In light of the upcoming review of Azerbaijan’s status in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in October, the undersigned organisations call on the EITI Board to suspend Azerbaijan from participation in EITI.

Letter to Vice President Pence Regarding Abducted Azerbaijani Journalist Afgan MukhtarliJuly 28, 2017

A letter from Freedom Now to Vice President Pence in advance of his trip to Georgia regarding the arrest and abduction of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli

Media Release: 15 Azerbaijani Prisoners of Conscience ReleasedMarch 18, 2016

Freedom Now statement on the release of 15 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, including Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Hilal Mammadov, Omar Mammadov, Mahamad Azizov, Rashad Hassanov, and Rashadat Akhundov.

Media Release: Azerbaijani Civil Society Leader Bashir Sulemanli Released from PrisonMarch 19, 2015

Freedom Now statement on the release of Bashir Sulemanli

Media Release: Azerbaijani Human Rights Lawyer Intigam Aliyev Released from PrisonMarch 28, 2016

Freedom Now statement on the release of human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev

Media Release: Azerbaijani Journalist Emin Huseynov Departs Azerbaijan, Ends 10 Month Legal LimboJune 15, 2015

Freedom Now statement on departure of Emin Huseynov from Azerbaijan

Media Release: Azerbaijani Video Blogger Adnan Hajizade Released from PrisonNovember 18, 2010

Announcing the release of Mr. Adnan Hajizad.

Media Release: Freedom Now Condemns Sentencing of Leyla and Arif YunusAugust 13, 2015

Freedom Now statement on sentencing of Leyla and Arif Yunus

Media Release: Freedom Now Welcomes Bakhtiyar Hajiyev's Release from PrisonJune 4, 2012

Announcing Mr. Hajiyev's release from prison in Azerbaijan.

Media Release: Freedom Now Welcomes Release of Azerbaijani Activist Arif Yunus to House ArrestNovember 12, 2015

Freedom Now statement on the release of Arif Yunus

Media Release: Freedom Now Welcomes Release of Azerbaijani Activist Leyla YunusDecember 9, 2015

Freedom Now statement on the release of Leyla Yunus

No Progress on Key ReformsMarch 2, 2017

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a prominent international coalition, should suspend Azerbaijan’s membership for failing to carry out key reforms, a coalition of 21 groups including Freedom Now, Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19, and International Media Support said today.

Open letter on the cross-border abduction and detention of Afgan MukhtarliJune 7, 2017

Freedom Now joins 21 organizations in calling for Georgia to investigate the abduction of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli.

Open Letter Regarding the Human Rights Situation in AzerbaijanApril 15, 2015

An open letter from former diplomats, government officials, and NGOs regarding the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

Open letter to His Holiness Pope Francis on political prisoners in AzerbaijanJuly 13, 2016

A letter from NGOs to His Holiness Pope Francis on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Pardons Issued to 12 Prisoners of Conscience; Many More Remain ImprisonedMay 24, 2018

Freedom Now takes note of pardons issued to 12 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan today.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Adnan Hajizade and Emin MilliJune 24, 2011

Submitted by Freedom Now and the Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic

President Macron - Support political prisoners in AzerbaijanJuly 12, 2017

Freedom Now joins 32 organizations and 13 HRDs to call on French President Macron to support political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Quash Conviction of Journalist Khadija IsmayilovaMay 26, 2016

On May 26, 2016, human rights organizations, journalists, and others will gather in front of the White House as part of a global campaign to highlight the ongoing repression of civil society and independent voices in Azerbaijan.

Renewed Human Rights Crackdown Ahead of ReferendumAugust 18, 2016

Less than six weeks ahead of a constitutional referendum, the Azerbaijani authorities have unleashed a new wave of repression to silence critical voices. Members of the Sport for Rights coalition condemn this renewed crackdown, and call on the Azerbaijani authorities to take immediate steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, starting with the release of political prisoners.

Repression beyond Borders: Exiled Azerbaijanis in GeorgiaSeptember 29, 2017

Freedom Now, the International Partnership for Human Rights, and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center issued a report documenting harassment and intimidation of Azerbaijani dissidents living in Georgia.

Sport for Rights Coalition Condemns Sentencing of Journalist Khadija IsmayilovaSeptember 1, 2015

Sport for Rights statement on sentencing of Khadija Ismayilova

Sport for Rights Joint Statement on Release of 15 Azerbaijani Political PrisonersMarch 18, 2016

Joint statement from 21 organizations on the release of 15 political prisoners in Azerbaijan

Sport for Rights letter to Chris BrownApril 21, 2016

The Sport for Rights Campaign sent three letters to Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias and Chris Brown ahead of their peformance at the Formula One European Grand Prix in Baku

Sport for Rights letter to Enrique IglesiasApril 21, 2016

The Sport for Rights Campaign sent three letters to Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias and Chris Brown ahead of their peformance at the Formula One European Grand Prix in Baku.

Sport for Rights letter to Lady GagaJune 18, 2015

A letter from the Sport for Rights campaign to Lady Gaga following her performance at the Opening Ceremonies of the European Olympic Games in Baku.

Sport for Rights letter to Pharrell WilliamsApril 21, 2016

The Sport for Rights Campaign sent three letters to Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias and Chris Brown ahead of their peformance at the Formula One European Grand Prix in Baku.

Sport for Rights Statement on Rasul Jafarov’s ConvictionApril 17, 2015

The Sport for Rights coalition resolutely condemns the sentencing of Rasul Jafarov and calls for his immediate release.

Stop Crackdown on Freedom of ExpressionDecember 6, 2016

Freedom Now joins 18 international organizations in calling for Azerbaijan to respect freedom of expression.

Submission to the UN Human Rights CouncilSeptember 19, 2017

Freedom Now's submission to the UN Human Rights Council prior to Azerbaijan's Universal Periodic Review

Third Party Intervention in Aliyev v AzerbaijanMarch 15, 2015

Freedom Now, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Human Rights House Foundation filed a third party intervention with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf on Intigam Aliyev

Third Party Intervention in Ismayilova v AzerbaijanJanuary 21, 2016

Freedom Now, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Human Rights House Foundation, and the International Partnership for Human Rights filed a third party intervention with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf on Khadija Ismayilova

Third Party Intervention in Mammadli v AzerbaijanMarch 15, 2015

Freedom Now, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Human Rights House Foundation filed a third party intervention with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf on Anar Mammadli

Third Party Intervention in Yunus and Yunus v AzerbaijanMay 6, 2015

Freedom Now and the Human Rights House Foundation filed a third party intervention with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf on Leyla and Arif Yunus

Time for Justice for Ilgar MammadovMay 22, 2017

Freedom Now joins NGOs in calling on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to refer the case of Ilgar Mammadov back to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds of non-execution of the judgment.

UNWGAD Decision on the Case of Hilal MammadovNovember 22, 2014

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Mr. Mammadov's detention to be arbitrary and called for his immediate release.

UNWGAD Petition on behalf of Adnan Hajizade and Emin MilliDecember 30, 2010

Submitted by Freedom Now and the Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic

UNWGAD Petition on Behalf of Hilal MammadovJanuary 8, 2014

Submitted by Freedom Now on behalf of Hilal Mammadov.

US Senate Letter to President AliyevJuly 8, 2015

A letter from 16 U.S. Senators to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressing concern about the diminishing space for civil society and the harassment of activists in Azerbaijan.

Why Eurovision song contest should not be held in AzerbaijanMay 25, 2012

CNN Opinion Op-ed by Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner calling on Azerbaijan to release prisoner of conscience Bakhtiyar Hajiyev.