The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Elchin Mammad, human rights lawyer, President of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), an NGO providing free legal assistance to low income families and non-profits, as well as the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine, which publishes articles on human rights concerns in the country.
According to the information received, on March 30, 2020, the police arrested Mr. Elchin Mammad at his home in the city of Sumgait, a few days after he had published online a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The police claimed to have found stolen jewellery worth 7,500 manats (around 4,070 euros) at his office.
On March 31, Sumgait City Court remanded Mr. Elchin Mammad in custody for three months as a criminal suspect under Article 177.2.4 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan(“theft causing significant damage”). He since then remains detained at Shuvalan Pre-Trial Detention Center No.3. Fears for his health are high in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic, in particular because of the overcrowding and poor prison conditions in Azerbaijan.
The Observatory firmly condemns the arbitrary detention of Mr. Elchin Mammad, which appears to be only aimed at sanctioning him for his legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory recalls that Mr. Elchin Mammad has faced harassment from the authorities in connection with his human rights work since 2015, when authorities launched an investigation into his organisation. He was subjected to arbitrary detention , and on several occasions summoned and questioned by the police. He was also placed under travel restrictions in connection with the investigation.
The Observatory further deplores that the case of Mr. Elchin Mammad is only emblematic of the serious and widespread abuses and intimidation of human rights activists in Azerbaijan, where a decades-long crackdown on human rights defenders has left them living and working in fear.
The Observatory is also concerned that the authorities have intensified the crackdown on the civil society using the Covid-19 outbreak as an excuse. On March 19, 2020, in his yearly address to the nation to mark the Novruz Bayrami holiday, President Ilham Aliyev notably promised “new rules” for the duration of the pandemic, threatening to clear the country of “traitors” and “enemies” and to “isolate the fifth column”.
The Observatory calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Elchin Mammad, and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Azerbaijan asking them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Elchin Mammadas well as of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;
ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Elchin Mammad as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;
iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Elchin Mammadas well as against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.
· Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Kyamran Aliev, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: email@example.com
· Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, E-mail: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Vagif I Sadigov, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.