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logo-PUGeneral information. This report was prepared by Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners”. Information used in this report was obtained from illegally detained former prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, as well as from reports by various domestic and international organisations. The authors performed comparative analysis of these reports.  In addition, current prisoners, their lawyers, and family members have been interviewed and their opinions also analysed. Current situations in investigatory isolation wards, in Baku prisons, and in regional prisons were observed and assessed, and monitoring of real conditions in jails considered as primary source of information. Both domestic and international legislative acts were researched. In summary, the authors of this report included in this document every violation that they had faced, seen or experienced first hand.

The main part of this report is dedicated to the political prisoner problem in Azerbaijan. This document covers: the history of the problem, the reasons for and the realities of the problem, the charges against political prisoners, the unjust decisions and sentences, and domestic and international attitude toward the problem.

The report contains analysis and research performed in three areas: detention centres conditions, prisoner rights, and the problem of political prisoners.

This document reveals the overall and partial conditions in detention centres, prisoner rights and the problem of political prisoners and is presented as the most real and objective report of recent years.

 

Aim of the report. The main objective of this report is to improve conditions in detention centres, to ensure the compliance of prisoners’ rights with domestic and international legislations and to assist in resolution of the problem of political prisoners. This report is considered as a bargaining tool in resolution of the mentioned problems, and pursues the goal of raising this problem in public agenda.  It can also be provided to relevant domestic and international institutes in order to perform public control over the above-mentioned problems.

 

Difficulties encountered during preparation of this report. In order to perform detailed monitoring of detention centres, to explore the current situation, to observe prisoners’ rights and obligations on the spot and to make their comparative analysis the authors of the Report needed access to the prison facilities.  Unfortunately, they were not allowed in jails run by Penitentiary Service of AR Ministry of Justice (hereinafter – “Penitentiary Service”) in spite of several appeals.

Meanwhile, determination of statistical values, clarification of some issues in order to make the Report more objective, comprehensive, and substantial were not possible because the source of this kind of information belongs to the Penitentiary Service. We regret to note that the official appeal of Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” to the Penitentiary Service made on January 7, 2013 in accordance to the ‘AR Law on Access to information” in order to clarify some issues and to get response to some questions was ignored, and the mentioned body violated the rule and did not respond to our request.  Our lawsuit against the Penitentiary Services to allow access to the information has been pending in local courts for over one and a half years.

The denied access to detention centres and to meetings with prisoners for members of Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” along with limited access to information created some difficulties for the preparation of the Report. But in spite of these problems the authors were able to use alternative sources to complete this Report.

 

General situation in detention centres.

a)     Positive points. Comparing the Soviet period with present time in the Republic of Azerbaijan it is obvious that there are some positive changes in respect to observance of the prisoners’ rights. This process was launched after joining to the Council of Europe and ratification of international Convention – European Prison Rules. Several jails and detention centres including Bayil Investigatory Isolation Ward (known as Bayil prison), which didn’t meet modern requirements, were destroyed and new facilities were built. The new Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward, which somehow meets modern standards, was built in the Kurdakhani settlement of the capital. Today, several additional Investigatory Isolation Wards and prisons are being constructed in various regions. Some temporary investigatory isolation wards of regional and city police departments are being renovated. Comparing the previous period with present time the conditions for prisoners, their food, medical service, transportation, control, etc. are somewhat improved.

Current situation with legislation: AR Milli Majlis (National Assembly) passed a new  “Law on Observance of prisoners’ rights and freedoms in detention centres” on May 22, 2012.  Most rules under this law were prepared in accordance to the European Prison Rules. Since 2013 several rights outlined in this law were implemented: in particular, prisoners are now allowed to communicate with relatives, to make one phone call per week, to have visitations, to watch TV, to listen to radio, to read newspapers, etc. The new law created legal basis for improvement of prisoners’ rights and duties. But, unfortunately, the implementation of this law could be much, much better.

Comparing with previous years there is heightened attention of domestic and international organisations to jails in Azerbaijan, to improve prisoners’ conditions, and to observe prisoner rights and duties. The representatives of such organisations visit detention centres, meet with prisoners, and take an interest in their condition and observation of their rights. Despite the fact that the employees of Ombudsman Institute do not have any power, they sometimes visit detention centres, meet with prisoners and listen to their complaints.

Controlling of Punishment Execution Inspectorate and Human Rights and Public Relations Department were created within the Ministry of Justice in order to establish the control on observance of prisoners’ rights in penitentiary facilities.

Also comparing with previous years government bodies allow prisoners to perform religious rituals in relevant places.

b)     Negative points. The majority of detention centres (Investigatory Isolation Wards, Jails, and Prisons – ed.) in Azerbaijan are housed in old buildings from the Soviet period. The laws are not fully functional in detention centres as well as in all bodies and government structures; there is discrimination, corruption, rude violation and torture of prisoners. Medical support, technical and material maintenance, social and other service levels are very low. There are serious problems with feeding regime, meals, clothes, etc. of prisoners. Activity of the Penitentiary Service which is responsible for detention centres and conditions there, for strict observance of prisoners’ rights and duties is closed to the public and society and is non-transparent, which creates an impression of unaccountable structure that provides biased and inefficient information to society. The above-mentioned body does not do any effective work in respect to implementation of existing domestic and international rules; it does not engage the prisoners in productive work in order to readapt them to society. Mainly, the detention centres for prisoners create an impression of places that return prisoners back into society with more vengeance and rude feelings instead of returning rehabilitated humans that understand their own mistakes and will be productive members of society.

 

Conditions in Investigatory Isolation Wards. During the last year there have been different negative opinions about Investigatory Isolation Wards, Jails, and Prisons that subordinate to the Penitentiary Service and about their activities, in particular with respect to the gross violations of human rights and freedoms. There are objective and subjective views among the existing opinions. It is well known that there are Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward number 1, Ganja Investigatory Isolation Ward number 2, and Shuvalan Investigatory Isolation Ward number 3 in Azerbaijan. The Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward number 1 was built in accordance with modern European standards with government funds. At first sight, it seems that the personnel and service would be created and organised like in European jails and prisons. But unfortunately, the Azerbaijan reality demonstrated its “standards” very quickly. Thus convicted people, prisoners, are divided into “black and white” groups.  Prison blocks, wards, and cells are differentiated for “bourgeois” and poor.  The “bourgeois” (rich prisoners) benefit from all rights, of course for money. The violation of prisoners’ and their relatives’ rights begins at the entrance, the “parcel delivery” point (known as “peredacha” room, from Russian word for ‘delivery’). There are different prices for parcel delivery to prisoners from their relatives. Fixed price for delivering the legally allowed parcel from relatives to poor prisoners is 5 – 15 manats (AZN – national money). The price for “Bourgeois” is higher but there are no limitations for their parcels. First of all prisoners who receive “Peredacha” (delivery) have to meet requirements of block’s “starshina” (sergeant major), at the same time according to national culture that prisoner has to also demonstrate his “respect” (which means to pay money) to warder who is in charge on that day. If there is no money then that “kind-hearted” warder has the right to choose and take the best food from the parcel of that prisoner. The monthly fee for the use of electrical stove in the cells of Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward number 1 varies from 100 to 150 manats.

There are also fixed prices set by the prison “regime” for the use of some prohibited items. And there are essential distinctions between prices in Investigatory Isolation Wards number 1 and number 3. The officers of Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward are wealthy meanwhile the officers of Shuvalan Investigatory Isolation Ward are more honest. The officers and warders here belong to more poor society and it is easier to find common ground with them. The cells and blocks in Shuvalan Investigatory Isolation Ward are very old; most of the prison blocks were stables of Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev, the old Baku oil-millionaire. Drinking water is brought in every day by trucks. There are no heating and air-conditioning systems. Unlike Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward, there is no fee for using heating stove in Shuvalan Investigatory Isolation Ward. A different building with 3 stores and more than 100 cells here is named “Titanic” and has got slightly better conditions, and “Bourgeois” are imprisoned in these cells. Political prisoners, journalists are also imprisoned there. But unlike “Bourgeois”, political prisoners and journalists pay nothing, because no one requests anything. The fee of 5 – 10 manats is charged to deliver the parcel from relatives to prisoners. These unwritten rules are widespread in all Preventive-Detention Cells (PDC) of police departments, Investigatory Isolation Wards, jails, prisons and suck the blood of prisoners’ relatives like a vampire (or cancer). The situation in PDCs that are under police control is worse; it is obligatory to pay for every little thing. Even the legal meeting in most PDCs must be paid for. It is obligatory to meet requirements of D.P.N.Ks – the kings of this place, and chief warders. Every 10th cigarette sent to any prisoner must be provided to warder, moreover, warders on night duty check every cell and collect sugar, tea, and “55” (prison slang for sweets).

Those who are detained in Investigatory Isolation Wards are deprived of several rights – medical aid, TV, press, sports and sometimes they are subjected to torture. The area of cells is 16-17 square meters. There is an open toilet inside the cell (for example, in Shuvalan Investigatory Isolation Ward). Windows let in very little light (small window size is 50 x 80 cm), cells without vents are a source of different problems and are a cause for several diseases. Also there is no cooling system (air-conditioner) in cells. Prisoners purchase electrical table fans at their own expense in summers. Sick prisoners stay with healthy prisoners in the same cell.

 

Regional Investigatory Isolation Wards. Conditions of Investigatory Isolation Wards as well as other such facilities are worse in regions than in Baku or its suburbs. Such facilities that are far away from public eyes, with poor government and no public control, have very terrible conditions for prisoners. There are no technical facilities here and rules do not work. For example, prisoners of Ganja Investigatory Isolation Ward tell that the food provided to them is awful, unhygienic state is very high, and medical aid is horrible: “To eat the food provided to prisoners is impossible. Just imagine, they have to eat rotten seed potatoes and bread cooked from bran. Prisoners who do not get parcels from home have to eat such food. Behaviour issues here are commonly based on Soviet rules system. There is also “garmoshka”, a small window lighting in the wall. When it is opened fresh air enters into the cell. These “garmoshkas” are opened for two manats per hour in Ganja Investigatory Isolation Ward. The corruption mechanism here is widespread and centralised. Everybody accepts it as normal phenomena and one man in every facility is in charge of collecting and transferring money.”

The condition in Khalaj Prison number 5 of Salyan region is the same. Gurban Mammadov, a lawyer, that was imprisoned here for more than a year tells that the conditions of this prison do not differ from other: “The penitentiaries of Azerbaijan are fitted to insult and humiliate the human dignity, in particular in Khalaj Prison number 5. As much as noted that conditions there improved, it is ridiculous to think so, because even civil inhabitants of Salyan have difficulties finding drinking water, experience heating and electricity problems, can’t protect their rights against law-enforcement bodies, just imagine what prisoners experience in such penitentiaries.”

 

Conditions in prisons. According to official information there are 20,000 (twenty thousand) prisoners in Azerbaijan prisons, but un-official sources declare that there are approximately 30,000 (thirty thousand) prisoners. The majority of inmates are in prisons. The majority of prisons are harmful to inmates’ health and life. There are 150 – 200 inmates in every barrack. Some prisoners have hepatitis (different forms), tuberculosis, AIDS, etc. but they stay in the same cell with healthy inmates with no heating or ventilation systems. Inmates sleep wearing outdoor clothes (from home) under their blankets in winters, and suffer from heat in summers. Every chief of prison manages with his own rules, despite the fact that the Penitentiary Service ratified the International Convention, like a European Prison Rules and incurred relevant obligations, but these laws are applied just on paper.

 

The food and clothes provided to inmates are of low quality, which is why prisoners have to use food, clothes, and bedclothes delivered from home. There is a store for inmates in prisons, but food, cigarettes and other necessities there are very expensive. Medical aid in prison hospitals is of very poor quality and inmates request their relatives to purchase needed medications; most prisons do not have GYM facilities.

New inmates in prisons are on the receiving end of incredibly humiliating insults during the initial frisk (prisoners are stripped naked, must stand face-to-face, and then are frisked) and then are kept in the “karantin” (quarantine) room with abnormal conditions.

Bedclothes provided to inmates are old, low quality, and in terrible condition and are not changed for weeks or sometimes months. In most cases inmates have to bring blanket, mattress and other bedclothes from home.

There is no posted food schedule in detention centres. When inmates ask about it, they are told that it is available in chief’s room (!?). Moreover, there are no announcements or outlines describing the allowed quantities of goods, food, and other necessities, and it is impossible for inmates to find out about these. Some prisons even provide two types of food to inmates: free and paid.

Inmates have no access to independent news sources; it is impossible to get a newspaper subscription because there is no POSTAL service in prisons.  Sometimes it is impossible to receive response to mail addressed to an organisation that is located within 10 km of prison for 2 months. Beating, torture and slandering became normal phenomena. There are tens of inmates in prisons who became crazy because of beating.

 

The quality of food for inmates. The quality of food for inmates is very low in Investigatory Isolation Wards as well as in prisons.  Of the thousands of inmates 20% to 30% are fed prison food, while the remaining majority receive food parcels from home. Nobody knows the ration allowance fixed for prisoners by the government and nobody can say how products allocated by the government for prisons are distributed. Unfortunately, despite the fact Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” officially appealed to the Penitentiary Service with request to clarify the amount of funds allocated by the government per each prisoner in Azerbaijan, the mentioned official body refused to provide this information publicly and violated the law by this refusal. But according to calculations performed by experts from the Council of Europe, in 2010 Azerbaijan government had a daily allowance of 8.79 Euro per each prisoner. This allowance is too low when compared to allotments of other European countries.  But taking into account the Azerbaijan reality, the actual funds spent on provisions for inmates are even lower than the official figure listed above.  It is necessary to note that this number was evaluated based on 2010 market prices. Obviously, the funds allocated for provisions to inmates are not adequate to the quality and volume of provisions and to actual expenses that cover food, products, etc.

 

International attitude about conditions in Investigatory Isolation Wards and prisons. Periodically international organisations and institutes (such as International Committee of the Red Cross, US Department of State, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.) prepare reports indicating their attitude towards conditions in detention centres in Azerbaijan. Summarizing relevant reports from the past three years, it is easy to conclude that terrible situation in detention centres in Azerbaijan remains despite the fact that there are continued improvements of infrastructure, and some prisons with their harsh conditions are harmful to inmates’ health. Cell overcrowding, inadequate feeding, lack of heating and ventilation systems, water shortage, and poor medical aid, all of these problems become reasons for the spread of infectious diseases (extracted from US Department of State report;

http://photos.state.gov/libraries/azerbaijan/749085/hajiyevsx/).

All reports state that despite the continued infrastructural improvements the majority of prisons are old, built in the Soviet period, and do not meet international standards. Government agencies put limitation on physical movement of inmates, and on meetings with their family and lawyers. There are very few opportunities for inmates to work and to take part in training. Ex-inmates note that warders punish prisoners by beating them and placing them in a lockup. Prison officers periodically read through inmate correspondence. The recording and accounting system of prison is organised very poorly.

 

Population density of inmates in detention centres.  As was mentioned above, the majority of prisons are old, built in the Soviet period, and do not meet modern standards. On the other hand, large number of arrests over the last years in our country increased inmate population density in prisons. The latest analysis demonstrates that funds allocated by government per every inmate are lower than the standard in both Investigatory Isolation Wards and in prisons. The intended space per each inmate is at least 4 square meters (see the law on Observance of human rights and freedoms in detention centres, Article 21.2), but in most cases this number is decreased to 2 – 2.5 square meters per inmate. At some Investigatory Isolation Wards (for example, Shuvalan Investigatory Isolation Ward number 3 – ed.) toilet facilities are part of the cell living space and are separated from the cell population only by a 1-meter tall wall.  This further creates sanitary and ventilation problems in cells.  A table below describes actual inmate population density in cells and barracks.

 

Table 1.

Population density of inmates in detention centres (person/sq.m.)

 

Row

number

Total area of cell and barrack

Standard related to number of inmates

The actual situation related to number of inmates

1.

4 sq.m

1 person

1- 2 persons

2.

8 sq.m

2 persons

3- 4 persons

3.

16 sq.m

4 persons

5- 6 persons

4.

40 sq.m

10 persons

13-15 persons

5.

60 sq.m

15 persons

20- 25 persons

6.

120 sq.m

30 persons

40- 45 persons

7.

200- 240 sq.m

50- 60 persons

80- 120 persons

8.

320- 360 sq.m

80-90 persons

130- 180 persons

 

Temperature inside the cells must be above 18°C during winters, but sometimes it gets so cold that inmates have to cover themselves with 2 blankets from home just to sleep normally.

Premises for meeting between inmates and family members are either in terrible conditions or are non-existent. The existing meeting premises are dilapidated, thick with dust, and insanitary. It is impossible to sit there in winter because it is too cold and in summer because it is too hot. The meeting premises also do not have any air-conditioning or heating.

 

Conditions in Central Hospital. Ex-inmates treated in Central Hospital of Ministry of Justice noted that the conditions and medical aid are miserable there. Insanitary conditions are everywhere in every block. There is a single toilet for inmate-patients in every block (100 – 120 persons); inmates with different diseases (tuberculosis, hepatitis, AIDS, etc.) are placed in the same ward. There is a systematized bribery procedure to get a “nariyad” (duty) from prison to the hospital. Only the Penitentiary Service can give an order for “nariyad” (duty) in closed or maximum-security prisons. Drug treatment is available only on paper. An inmate cannot be released from prison before term of sentence without such “treatment” and that is why they have to give a required bribe.

 

Groundless arrests and cruelty against detained persons. Despite several domestic and international condemnations the numbers of illegal and groundless arrests are increasing instead of decreasing. It looks like the police and law enforcement bodies are inclined to arrest people in order to punish them at any cost. Such an inclination arose because of severe administration demand along with corruption phenomena. This means that majority of arrested people are viewed as potential sources of income for those who arrest them. Over the last years the number of illegal arrests increased not only because of detention of ordinary people, but also because there are many arrests of political and social activists. For example, since the middle of January 2013 and up to the date of this report (so more than a year and a half) many people were arrested and more than 50 of those were arrested under false accusations for their political, social, journalistic, human rights, or religious activities. 2013 was memorable for the January 19th arrest of owners, when they protested against the collection of additional fees in Bina Trade Centre; on January 23 in Ismayilli region, ordinary people tried to stand up for their rights and protested against the gang rule of officials’ children, those people were rudely punished by the authorities and slanderously arrested.

Public and political activists were accused and arrested under several false pretences, such as Forcible conquest of power (Article 278), Resistance to a representative of the authorities (Article 315), Drugs (Article 234), Hooliganism (Article 221), Illegal carrying of weapon (Article 228), Riotous statement (inciting disorders and participation – Article 220.1, 220.2), Misuse of power (Article 308), Tax evasion, etc.

Despite the fact that law prohibits groundless arrests and detentions the authorities never observe these rules and the problem of impunity still persists. For example, sometimes reports or statements from the US Department of State or other authoritative international organisations declare that some political activists and other suspected individuals were isolated from outside world in police detention centres for several hours or few days. There are also several instances when the authorities did not allow pre-trial meetings, even with the lawyer, for political causes. For example, Taleh Baghirzade, a religious figure, was detained by police officers on March 31 and was completely isolated for a week. One week before the detention he criticized authorities in his speech at a mosque. At a speedy trial on November 1 the authorities convicted Baghirzade of illegal drug possession and sentenced him to 2 years’ imprisonment. When Murad Adilov, a member of APFP (Azerbaijani Popular Front Party), was detained he was not allowed to meet with his lawyer for several days. According to the information from his relatives, law enforcement officials tortured him during that period and tried to forcibly get an admission of guilt and other testimonies from him.

 

Groundless arrests. During the year groundless arrests, most detentions for obstruction of police, possession of drugs or carrying of a weapon, and arrests under false accusations for disturbance of social order still persisted. Domestic NGOs, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized government officials because they detained people who were exercising their fundamental human rights and those organisations also noted that authorities charge people with false accusations. In particular, police detained activists of democratic opposition and members of political parties because they tried to organise a peaceful protest. For example, in the first part of the year government officials arrested young activists and democratic activists who participated in a peaceful protest rally or called people to that demonstration. Among those activists were 7 members of NIDA, a civil youth movement (Bakhtiyar Guliyev, Mammad Azizov, Rashad Hasanov, Rashadat Akhundov, Shahin Novruzlu, Uzeyir Mammadli, Zaur Gurbanli), 1 member of Free Youth Organisation (Ilkin Rustamzade), and two activists in youth branches of political parties (Dashgin Malikov and Rasul Mursalov). Also, Abdul Abilov, a young Facebook activist, was arrested by police on November 26 and subsequently charged with illegal possession of drugs. Independent Mass Media speculated that Abilov’s criticism of authorities led to his arrest. Observers noted that police violated arrest and detention procedures.

There was a detention that continued for close to 18 months in Investigatory Isolation Wards. Prosecutor General regularly prolonged the law mandated three months pre-trial detention period for several months. On the eve of planned demonstration on March 10, where young people were going to protest the mysterious March 7, 2013 deaths of soldiers, officers of Ministry of National Security arrested 3 young activists of NIDA civil youth movement: Azizov Mammad, Guliyev Bakhtiyar, and Novruzlu Shahin.  They were arrested in the evening and neither their families nor friends were informed and no lawyer was appointed to them.  Within a few hours the apartment of Azizov, who lived alone, and the apartment of Guliyev and Novruzov, who lived with parents, were searched.

After the search it was declared that drugs and Molotov cocktail were found in their apartments. Their initial arrests and interrogations were conducted without lawyers. Taking into account that Shahin Novruzlu was a juvenile on the date of the detention, his attorney had to be present during the questioning according to the law; however, investigators ignored this requirement. All three young men indicated in their first statements that they did nothing illegal. But one day later, with no attorney present during the questioning, they were forced to testify against themselves and their friends under the threat of torture and psychical violence.

On March 9, 2013 all TV channels broadcasted in Azerbaijan aired a video recording prepared by the investigation, which described the coerced confession of these young men, where they admitted that they were going to use Molotov cocktail during the protest and intended to organise public disorder. The broadcast video showed that they also testified against the leaders of NIDA civil youth movement, that those leaders also participated in this “crime”. It was obvious from that tape that these young men were scared and tortured. Broadcasting of this video with the coerced confessions, like in the Soviet period, is one of the facts that prove that these arrests were based on a political order. After a short period, when these young men were appointed an attorney they stated that they confessed under torture and urged the prosecutor’s office to investigate all torture facts. But the investigation of this torture was just a formality because the investigation was done by the same people who committed this torture.

Rashad Ramazanov, one religious young man, actively shared micro-blogs on social networks, in particular on Facebook, that criticized authorities’ political line and government officials, including the president (https://www.facebook.com/HAQQINqulu777). He was charged with drug possession, a well-known accusation in Azerbaijan that is used against all activists. After the arrest, Rashad Ramazanov was illegally detained in Main Organized Crime Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for 11 days, and was placed in the Investigatory Isolation Ward after statements from both domestic and international organisations. Aslan Ismayilov, a well-known lawyer declared that Ramazanov was tortured and beaten in this department, and he urged some bodies to investigate this fact. But unfortunately, this torture fact was not investigated, and moreover, Ismayilov was detained by the police and threatened not to make such statements, otherwise he would be punished. A few days later Ismayilov was dismissed from Attorney Colleague. On November 13, 2013 Ramazanov was sentenced to 9 years jail by the decision of Baku Court on Grave Crimes. Both Baku Appeal Court on January 16, 2014 and Supreme Court on May 14, 2014 upheld the decision of the court. Amnesty International recognised Ramazanov as a prisoner of conscience.

First of all young members of NIDA civil youth movement were illegally accused of possession of explosives and drugs, but 6 months later, in September 2013 additional grave charges were added against them: participation in mass disorders or organisation of such disorders. It is precisely these additional grave charges that influenced Ayanat Akhundov, the grandfather of the member of administrative chamber of movement Rashadat Akhundov, to commit suicide by cutting his own veins. As a result of that suicide he died in hospital.

 

Lack of fair and independent trials. There are too many facts that show that Azerbaijan does not have independent courts, and that all courts are just additional executive institutes. Occasionally members of domestic civil societies, as well as representatives of international organisations, alert to this issue. The real situation regarding lack of independent and fair judicial system, the lack of professionalism of judges, and that judges are dependent on law enforcement bodies and executive structures, and about involvement in corruption is reflected in the US Department of State report issued in 2013. An excerpt from this report is provided: Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, judges did not function independently of the executive branch. The judiciary remained corrupt and inefficient. Verdicts were largely unrelated to the evidence presented during the trial. The executive branch continued to exert a strong influence over the judiciary. The Ministry of Justice controlled the Judicial Legal Council (JLC). The JLC appoints a judicial selection committee (six judges, a prosecutor, an advocate, a JLC representative, a Ministry of Justice representative, and a legal scholar) which administers the judicial selection examination and oversees the year-long judicial training and selection process. Credible reports indicated that judges and prosecutors took instruction from the presidential administration and the Ministry of Justice, particularly in cases of interest to international observers. There continued to be credible allegations that judges routinely accepted bribes. The ministry reported that as of November 1, the JLC suspended two judges and disciplined nine others.

The constitution prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence. Despite some defendants’ claims that authorities obtained testimony through torture or abuse, courts did not dismiss cases based on claims of abuse, and there was no independent forensic investigator to determine the occurrence of abuse. Judges often ignored claims of police mistreatment. Investigations often focused on obtaining confessions rather than gathering physical evidence against suspects. Serious crimes brought before the courts most often ended in conviction, since judges generally required only a minimal level of proof and collaborated closely with prosecutors. When a judge determined that the evidence presented was not sufficient to convict a defendant, a case could be returned to the prosecutor for additional investigation, effectively giving the prosecutor another chance to obtain a conviction.”

 

Note: please remember, the above mentioned opinion has been placed in the Human Rights report of the US Department of State issued in 2013 about Azerbaijan and reflects the real situation in the country.

 

Torture of detainees. While the Constitution of Azerbaijan and Criminal Code prohibit torture of detainees and provide for grave penalties, such torture remains an active issue in detention centres. Most mistreatment, sexual abuse and torture of detainees take place in temporary detention centres, pre-trial detention facilities, as well as in prisons. The torture takes form not only in physical violence but it also includes various sexual abuse, confinement in unsuitable premises, subjection to psychological pressure, discrimination, etc. According to the information from prisoners, their relatives and lawyers, security service officers beat detainees, and insulted journalists and demonstrators in order to threaten them and to get coerced confessions. Impunity remained a problem. In accordance with received information authorities reportedly maintained a de facto ban on independent forensic examinations of detainees who claimed mistreatment and delayed their access to an attorney. Prisoners placed in lock-up, or punishment cells, were severely beaten.

 

Torture in the Ministry of National Security. It is notable that torture of detainees took place not only in police departments and pre-trail detention facilities, but also in the building of the Ministry of National Security (MNS), an agency that is tasked with protection of the national security, but not with arresting of civil society activists. Mammad Azizov, the imprisoned member of NIDA civil youth movement, informed that he was tortured in the MNS detention ward. He was severely beaten there and threatened with rape. Mammad Azizov said that he was being forced to give false testimony against Rashad Hasanov, but refused, and after that he was beaten uninterruptedly for 40 minutes. “They said I have to choose bottle or rape. I said: What are you talking about? One ordered to bring a bottle from downstairs. When they returned with a truncheon I was rejoiced that they would beat me. And they beat me for 40 minutes. I could not walk for a week because of pain in my legs. When I was transferred to Kurdakhani Investigatory Isolation Ward I needed treatment for my left ear for 2 months. I lost hearing in my left ear.” – said Mammad Azisov.

Shahin Novruzlu, a 17-year old member of NIDA civil youth movement, stated during the trial that despite the fact that he was a juvenile on the date of detention, the MNS questioned him without the presence of his lawyer and family. During the questioning he was tortured in order to coerce a confession. Shahin Novruzlu said that MNS officers beat him and broke 4 of his teethes. The young activist indicated that one of the men who subjected him to violence was Gasim Mammadov. But unfortunately, neither the prosecutor’s office nor the court investigated this fact.

 

Parviz Hashimli, the journalist of “Bizim Yol” (Our way) newspaper, considered by Amnesty International as prisoner of conscience, was also illegally detained in the custody of the Ministry of National Security and tortured. In order to coerce his confession he was subjected to various psychological pressures and physical mistreatments. The security service officers wearing black masks transported him to his trial under offensive conditions, with a black sack on his head. After an absurd court decision he was placed into lock-up for 6 days, just because he answered questions on “Mediaforum” web site.

 

Evidence of torture described in the US Department of State report.  Evidence of torture against detainees in Azerbaijan prisons was also widely described in reports by international organisations. For example, report from the US Department of State in 2013 about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan stated:

“Security forces abused, tortured, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological pressure, punished 111 persons in custody during 2013, compared with 141 in 2012. Reports indicated that most mistreatment took place while detainees were in police stations and that abuse ceased once detainees moved to pre-trial detention facilities. In one notable exception, human rights activists reported that, on September 11, authorities beat Ilkin Rustamzade, a detainee in the Kurdakhani detention facility, for publishing an article in an opposition newspaper. As of year’s end, there was no investigation of the allegation.”

The US Department of State report also indicated that impunity remained a problem. Authorities reportedly maintained a de facto ban on independent forensic examinations of detainees who claimed mistreatment and delayed their access to an attorney.

The report indicated; “Authorities used torture or other mistreatment to coerce confessions. For example, there were allegations that authorities forced N!DA (which means exclamation point in Azeri) youth movement members Shahin Novruzlu, Bakhtiyar Guliyev, and Mammad Azizov to appear on March 9 on state television reading prepared “confessions” that they had planned to use violence to foment revolution at a March 10 protest against deaths in the army. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Azizov informed his lawyer that Ministry of National Security officers beat him after he retracted his “confession.” Azizov reportedly could not walk for four days and lost hearing in one ear.

Efforts to coerce confessions reportedly at times included threats of rape.”

 

Evidence of torture of Ali Insanov in European Court. One of the arrested and then tortured individuals in detention facility was Ali Hasanov, one of the founders of YAP (New Azerbaijan Party), ex-minister of health, and currently a political prisoner. Reprisals against Ali Insanov continued at his last trial in Baku Appeal Court. In order to subject him to psychological pressure and abuse he was placed into a glass dock and his voice was controlled by the judge via a remote control. This was first such incident in the history of Azerbaijan.

It is very notable that on March 14, 2013 European Court sustained Ali Hasanov’s claim to fair trail right and torture facts. European Court took a decision that the Azerbaijan authorities should immediately release Ali Hasanov and pay a contribution of 10,000 (ten thousand) Euro. But unfortunately, Azerbaijan authorities decided to keep with their way of isolation from the international judicial world and system, and so they did not implement the relevant decision of European Courts on Human Rights.

 

How are prisoners tortured?

The torture and abuse of detainees and prisoners are wide spread in detention centres of Azerbaijan. Detainees and prisoners are subjected to various tortures. Of course, detained civil and political activists are subjected to torture less than others. But to think logically, detention or arrest of those who did not commit a crime, and who struggled for peoples’ rights can in itself be considered as a grave torture against such persons. Provided below are views of ex-prisoner Rasul Mursalov, whom several international organisations announced as a political prisoner. His opinions prove once again the following issue, if political prisoners are subjected to such grave tortures in detention facilities, it is not difficult to imagine what kind of severe torture is experienced by ordinary people who do not know how to protect their rights. Rasul Mursalov noted: “I was arrested for active participation in demonstrations and civil protest meetings on the eve of Eurovision 2012 song contest. In the morning of July 18, 2012, men with black mask (MNS) attacked my home, put a sack on my head, and tied my hands behind with fishing line. They did not tell me where they were taking me, when I asked them they beat me and said “we are taking you to be killed”. I did not know where I was being held (probably one of the regional department of MNS – ed.) and every day I was subjected to various tortures. The room was empty and its floor was made of concrete. The person who tortured me wore a mask. He beat the soles of my feet with wood and subjected me to other tortures. While torturing me he wanted to know: who ordered me to be in that area, and to “organise” a plan for rebellion with radical religious groups in Zagatala, do I act as a go-between for “Forest Brothers” and political parties. Of course, I denied all accusations and that is why I was subjected to torture for 7 days…”

 

“in freezing January weather they removed my coat, compelled me to work in the rain and snow until I became ill”

… While I was in Ganja Investigatory Isolation Ward I was tortured right in front of Chief Officer Shakir Bayramov, and scars on my body from that torture still persist. I was also tortured for my active participation in anti-government civil demonstration, but after that I was tortured because I refused to write an appeal for mercy. On the day when I was transferred to Prison number 14, officers of the Penitentiary Services beat me with “dubinka” (truncheons) in accordance with the order from Chief Nazim Kangarli. The sole reason – I was a political prisoner, I did not close my eyes on their illegal acts and I did not obey their illegal orders. They subjected me to compulsory works in freezing January weather, they removed my coat, compelled me to work under the rain and snow, so I became ill and was taken to the medical block. During 2 months I was prohibited from having visitors, making phone calls, sending letters or petitions. On April 23, 2013 some poison was added in my lunch and I was poisoned…

… I was tortured the most before the elections. I was required to write a petition for mercy to Ilham Aliyev and to add that I support him, but I refused. So, the operator Telman Baghirov, the “press veren” (slang for “punisher”) according to the order from Ali Ibrahimov, the Chief of Prison, held me in the walking yard of the punishment room barefoot for several hours, tied and beat me. Then he cut off my hair and took me to the zone…”

It is obvious that ex-prisoners R. Mursalov’s statements require no commentary. All issues that he brought up show the real despotic, severe, and ruthless attitude of the authorities and the Penitentiary Service under the management of Madat Guliyev towards innocent civil Azeri inhabitants.

 

Those who protect their rights are subjected to brutal pressure

“Inmates are forced to make animal sounds”

At first glance, it would seem that brave and educated inmates who know their rights would be less likely to be subjected to torture and pressure in detained facilities, but it is not so. Moreover, in recent years violations of inmates’ rights increased so much that even well-known and educated political prisoners are subjected to torture along with ordinary inmates. For example, Nemat Panahli, one of the earliest leaders of the National Freedom movement, who is currently an inmate in prison, protested the lawlessness of the Penitentiary Service while being held in Prison number 17, and he was subjected to pressures and placed in lock-up many-many times. Then by the decision of the court he was transferred to the maximum security Qobustan Prison, which has brutal and harsh conditions.

N. Pnahali reported unlawful activities at Prison Number 17 in his statement and noted that all inmates of Prison Number 17 are being held captive under duress and money is taken from them under any pretenses. Crimes are committed in prison by those who call themselves “avtoritet” (underworld leader), but who actually are henchmen of the prison’s chief.

N. Panahli indicated that on the morning of December 6 soldiers entered the prison, lined the inmates up, and men in black masks began severely beating prisoners with no reason or explanation. Inmates that were beaten had no relation to the evening events; they were just regular inmates who happened to complain to the chief. After N. Panahli protested the beating of inmates he was placed in lock-up.

“Tortured inmates were forced to bark like dogs for 2-3 hours, to make other animal sounds, then they were humiliated, offended and everybody despised them” – said N. Panahli clarifying the situation in prison on that day.

To protest that lawlessness N. Panahli began a hanger strike and for that reason was held in lock-up for 5 days, in order to stop his hunger strike they added 5 more days and threatened him that his punishment can be increased further.

“To say the truth about the incidents in Prison Number 17, to spread information about these incidents in mass media requires a lot of responsibility, and I understand it, I also realise that I am risking my life for my courage” – said N. Panahli informing the public about the expected threat. Just after that statement the court took more severe decision and he was sent to the maximum security Qobustan Prison.

 

Torture and pressure of political prisoners

In recent years there were many claims of problems related to prison conditions and increased instances of torture and pressure of political prisoners.

Illegally arrested Intigam Aliyev, a well-known human rights defender, is held in terrible conditions, he cannot communicate with his attorney with ease and confidentiality in order to develop his defence tactic because of created problems. I. Aliyev complained to the Penitentiary Service via his attorney and indicated in his letter that electric lights in his cell are turned on 24 hours a day, there is no refrigerator for keeping the food he receives from home, letters he writes and receives are groundlessly subjected to censorship and there are obstacles for sending correspondence out of the detention ward. Moreover, there are more than 50 applications that are pending in European Court on Human Rights and Intigam Aliyev, a legal attorney for these applicants, cannot communicate with the ECHR because authorities prevent all communications. Unfortunately, there is no adequate response from the Penitentiary Service regarding these problems.

Psychological pressure against another imprisoned well-known human rights defender Leyla Yunus continues. She is being pressured via multiple crimes committed by other inmates and periodically authorities create obstacles for deliveries of her medications and required specialty diabetic food.  Human rights defender’s attorneys reported that Nuriyya Huseynova, a repeat offender, is housed in one cell with Leyla Yunus; she attacked Yunus for no reason, threatened and insulted her, and threw all she could lay hands on at Leyla Yunus. Despite the fact that this was reported to the management of the detention centre, officers punished Leyla Yunus (she was rebuked) instead of Nuriyya Huseynova.

Attorneys of Leyla Yunus reported that she is being pressured not only via inmates, but that officers of the detention centre apply such pressures as well. On the afternoon of September 23, major Yagubov, an officer of Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward, came to her cell, twisted her hand and dragged her out, he took her to an empty cell, then pulled her by the hair and knocked her down. Doing so he yelled “aren’t you getting smart?”. Then he punched her to the head and side several times. Many human rights organisations stated that attempts of the Penitentiary Service to gloss over the acts of violence hide the authorities’ volition.

 

 

 

BLACK LIST

Of officials that tortured inmates:

Some detainees are subjected to torture from the first day of detention. Their torture continued in prison as well. Ex-prisoners and those who were subjected to torture reported that the officials listed below were more severe than others during torture:

 

1. Arshad Hasanov – former chief of Prison number 14, retired

2. Alzamin Guliyev – former regime officer of Prison number 14

3. Rauf Majidov – chief of Terter RPD (Regional Police Department) of MIA (Minister of Internal Affair)

4. Alifagha Gasimov – deputy chief of Sabirabad Regional Police Department

5. Vusal Shebendiyev – chief of Sabirabad police department’s criminal investigation unit MIA

6. Seyfeddin Guliyev – former chief of duty service in Sabirabad RPD of MIA

7. Said Seyidov – former officer of Organized Crime Department of MIA, currently promoted and advanced in rank and appointed to another post at MIA

8. Azer Seyidov – chief of Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward number 1

9. Shahin Osmanov – former chief of maximum security Qobustan Prison

10. Samir Huseynov – former chief of Prison number 17

11. Rauf Mammadov – chief of Prison number 12

12. Gajay Aslanov – former deputy chief of Prison number 17

13. Babek Isgenderov – chief of regime at Prison number 17, nickname “king of tortures”

14. Aftandil Aghayev – former chief of Prison number 12

15. Shakir Bayramov – chief of Ganja Investigatory Isolation Ward

16. Murtuz Sadigov – chief of Prison number 8

17. Nazim Kenkerli – former chief of Prison number 14

18. Ali Ibrahimov – chief of Prison number 14

19. Nizami Guliyev – chief of Tuberculosis Clinic

20. Elchin Alijanov – chief of Prison number 17

21. Fagan Yaqubov – officer of Baku Investigatory Isolation Ward, etc.

 

Unfortunately, the officials mentioned in the list above are powerful men at the Penitentiary Service and MIA and currently most of them hold high positions. Moreover, some of them were promoted and advanced in rank instead of being punished for illegal acts and violence. Some “kings of tortures” who were retired due to old-age receive pensions from the budget of Azerbaijan state for demonstrated inhumane attitude and torture against Azeri people (!?). Azerbaijan is one of the few countries where officials who subjected civil, unarmed, innocent people to torture are not punished but promoted. And when they do retire they get the highest pensions (80% of pre-retirement salary).

 

Deaths in detention centres. Unfortunately, taking into account the general situation in our country (i.e. current regime became more severe, restrictions of freedom of assembly increased, control over the Internet strengthened, number of arrests of political and civil society activists increased, etc.) the conditions in this case are getting worse instead of being improved. Number of instances of torture of prisoners in detention centres continued and most of tortures had fatal accident. Because of inmates who could not stand the abuse and mistreatment from chiefs of prisons, injustice, social and psychological pressures any longer, the number of suicides in detention centres has increased over the last years.

In order to crush inmate protests against terrible conditions and brutal attitude of management towards inmates in some prisons, special military troops are brought into a prison and inmates are punished ruthlessly. Such methods are used frequently and many people were injured, killed, or fall prey to this brutality. There are other reasons for suicide and deaths among inmates. For example, one group of inmates in Prison Number 12 complained to relevant body about death that was a result of open drug sales by the chief of this prison. But nothing was done to prevent these drug sales. So, on May 6, 2014 prisoner Umudov Javid died of an overdose.

According to information from relatives of Parviz Mikayilov (an inhabitant of Zagatala region), available photographs, witness statements and other forms of evidence, this inmate has been beaten to death in Prison Number 16. The Penitentiary Service of Ministry of Justice did not agree with the claim that Parviz Mikayilov was tortured to death and stated that the inmate had psychological problems and committed suicide. Yalchin Imanov, a lawyer, noted that keeping an inmate who has psychological problems in prison is illegal: “If he had psychological problems why was he in prison, just to hang himself? If he was hospitalized and his treatment was not completed, then why was he returned to prison; that would also be illegal. A patient that received no treatment should remain in the hospital.  If an inmate hangs himself, then the Penitentiary Service is the responsible body for this act, but if the inmate was killed, then criminal proceedings against his murderer have to be started.”

On August 28, Turaj Zeynalov died while in the custody of Ministry of National Security officials in Nakhchivan. The ministry initially claimed his death was due to skin cancer and stated that the burns and injuries found on his chest, back, and stomach were the result of radiation therapy. NGOs disputed these assertions. A video of Zeynalov’s body, filmed at his funeral and posted on the Internet on December 6, showed signs of abuse (extracted from the US Department of State report – ed.). Currently the Turaj Zeynalov case is being processed at the European Court on Human Rights and the communication has been started.

 

Facts of corruption in detention centres

According to Azerbaijan reality and practice detainees are swamped with corruption from the first day in Temporary Detention Custody, then in Investigatory Isolation Ward, then in Prison and it continues until the date of their release. Everything has its price, beginning with delivery of parcels to inmates and ending with visitations. Prices vary depending on the material welfare of inmates. Detainees face corruption from the first day in detention centres. If he/she does not want to be placed in quarantine, he/she must pay. Even cells in Detention Centre have a price depending on conditions and opportunities.

According to research and information from inmates it became known that all premises: service facilities, little commercial stores, etc., within Prison pay special fixed fee to the chief warder. For example, every month shower keepers pay 900 manat, canteen keepers pay 900 manat, phone keepers pay 2000 manat, and chief of food and beverage service pay a higher bribe. In some prisons, money is collected even for the right to keep food, clothes or for a cooking place. In most prisons of 600 – 700 inhabitants, showers work by established standards: two days during the week are free while the remaining five days are paid.

When an inmate’s turn to receive visitors comes around, 10, 20, 50 manat or sometimes more are required. For weekly visits you must pay off all wards starting from the entrance. Otherwise bad days are waiting for that inmate. In some prisons, even when an inmate’s attorney comes to visit him, that attorney must also pay a special bargain (!?). Those inmates who protested corruption, tyranny, and lawlessness in Prisons were held in lock-up or tortured and mistreated.  A prisoner may be subjected to many other punishment methods.

One group of inmates widely provided information about their complaint to the head of the state and to other government officials about facts of corruption in Prison Number 12. Fuad Huseynov, an ex-political prisoner from Prison Number 12, who was released on May 26, 2014 in accordance to pardon order from the head of the state, confirms all these facts. It is stated in the appeal: “It is stipulated that inmates can make 15-minute phone calls to their relatives twice a week. According to market rules and prices of the Prison’s management, for the price of 5 manat per phone call it becomes possible to communicate any time of the day, and any day of the week. Prison management derives an income of 25,000 (twenty thousand) manat monthly just from phone calls. Training in prison GYM costs 20 manat per month, taking a shower costs 5 manat each time, and using laundry facilities costs 30 manat per month. There are 3 cafes in Prison, and price for one plate of food varies from 3 manat to 7 manat. One pot of tea costs 2 manat, watching a film costs 1 manat per person, sleeping on the lower level of bunk bed costs 150 manat, avoiding mandatory work in quarantine costs 200 manat. Otherwise you will be tortured and placed into a punishment cell if you refuse to work.

Rauf Mammadov, chief officer of Prison Number 12, and his deputy, Gajay Aslanov, were appointed to their posts there on the same day, December 29, 2013. Prior to their appointments allocations were made for prison computer classes.  There were thirteen computers available and the classes were supposed to be taught free of charge.  After their arrival the computer classes were cancelled and a practice of renting the computers out to play computer games at 5 manat per hour began.  Charging 5 manat per hour on thirteen computers from 10 AM to 9 PM daily brings them a monthly income of approximately 20,000 – 25,000 manat.

Inmates are often provoked in order to take money from them. Due to torture of prisoners by these two chiefs there are many injured and wounded inmates in this prison. Blood is running down like water from the punishment cells. Every month mandatory haircuts are conducted. If you want to keep your hair you must pay 10 manat monthly. At least 300 inmates pay that amount each month. Anyone outside of prison can observe this situation with ease; it is enough to see bald-headed and haired inmates. Everything in prison stores is very expensive, at least 3-4 times. The food provided for inmates is bad, with no calories, low-quality, and stinks. The provisions allocated for inmates are sold in stores. Constant consumption of rotten seed potatoes, onions, and meals cooked with technical oil makes it impossible for inmates to stay healthy. This is why during a routine medical check-up approximately 700 prisoners were found to have serious lung disease. High population density, insanitary conditions, and stuffiness are dominant in cells. For a prison block of 130 inmates there are just 3 toilets and 3 taps, which creates long lines and sometimes fights among prisoners. Prison management benefits from this scenario as they take money from those who are involved in fights, otherwise these inmates will be placed in lock-up and tortured. Wealthy inmates pay 300 manat per month for an extended stay in prison medical block. Encouraging events for inmates are performed for 150-200 manat. Before the end of this year approximately 400 prisoners’ terms of sentence will be ending. This means that these prisoners have served out more than ¾ of their terms, but they will not be released on parole by the courts due to unpaid bribe set by prison management, because only prison management can send their cases to court. When relatives of inmates visit them they bring only food to prison. This proves once again that the quality of food there is terrible. The management of Prison takes 30 manat from relatives for every 100 manat delivered to prisoner. Most of the time the chief of Prison is drunk, and being so, he swears and insults all prisoners during the roll call. Serious illness is widespread due to high concentration of charcoal fumes in liquid-gas that inmates use to cook or to make tee in allocated premises of Prison Number 12. And no one even tries to stop it.  Inmates experience serious difficulties because supply of electricity, gas and water is interrupted frequently. Names of 300 inmates are registered in a job list. But prison management sign in the names of those inmates and appropriates their salary for themselves; this makes approximately 20,000 (twenty thousand) manat monthly. In reality there are only 60-70 inmates who work in prison instead of the registered 300. Prison produces and sells backgammon tables, rosaries, little toy houses, etc., but the management appropriates all profits for themselves. No tax is paid into the government budget. As a matter of fact no rules work in Prison Number 12. Only special rules of corruption network work here, which must be stopped.”

After this statement was published in press the prison management subjected all prisoners who signed that letter to severe pressure and required them to retract their signatures and statements. One of the prisoners who signed that statement is Jeyhun Huseynov, an inmate of Prison Number 12, he was subjected to brutal pressure and violence. His wife Esmira Huseynova reported to Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” about the severe torture her husband was subjected to because he insisted on demands indicated in the statement: “At first they suggested that my husband deny ever writing or signing that statement. But Jeyhun did not accept that. Then they beat him severely. They reduced him to terrible conditions, I still remember when I met him I could not recognize his face. They required him to take the statement back and to never complain again. But he insisted and demanded an investigation of all complaints. That is why he started a hunger strike. Due to this hunger strike he was beaten and placed into lock-up for several days. They wanted to kill him. My husband’s condition is terrible, his life is in danger, please help.”

According to the researches and reports it became known that the situation and conditions in other prisons are the same as in Prison Number 12.

 

 

Prisons sell air to inmates

When inmates serve out more than 1/3, 1/2 of their terms they become eligible for a reduction of the term or they can be released. Implementation of prisoners’ lawful right depends on Chief of Prison. The authorities’ willingness to provide positive recommendations and rewards for prisoners, with the exception of political prisoners, has fixed prices. For this reason there are arranged general meetings in Prison. The price for 1/3 period is 200-250 manat per month, for 1/2 is 300-400 manat per month. Even dangerous criminals can pay and benefit from this opportunity.

While the law provides for the opportunity for inmates to call home they still have to appease the ward with a small bribe. Some prison chiefs constructed houses on prison grounds and offer these to prisoners for rent at 150 – 200 manat per month. In order to motivate prisoners to rent these houses the general population premises are kept in bad conditions.

Less than 10% of food, clothes and medications allocated by the government reach inmates due to corruption in prisons, and that is why inmates receive all necessary things from home. Products in prison stores are sold at very high prices; inmates with serious illnesses or those who suffer from drug abuse must give bribes in order to get treatment in Central Hospital.

Conditions in prisons are deplorable. Corruption is present there like a ghost. It is too dangerous even to talk about human rights and freedom phenomena. Very few political prisoners, arrested journalists, can benefit from “Freedom Themis” and it can even cost them their lives. In some prisons, inmates must pay to breathe fresh air, must pay for the right to open a small window in the wall (“garmoshka”), i.e. they sell air to prisoners.

 

Collected bribes and amounts are described in the table below:

Table 2.

 

Number

Type of bribe

Amount of bribe

Is it considered as a legal tax?

1. Parcel delivery to prisoner 5- 15 manat No
2. To receive visitors 20-100 manat No
3. To sleep on first level of bunk bed 150- 200 manat No
4. To stay in “Bourgeois” cell 500- 2000 manat No
5. To stay in special room of prison 150-300 manat per month No
6. To avoid being shaved bald 10- 20 manat No
7. Training in GYM 10-30 manat per month No
8. To make a phone call 5- 15 manat No
9. To be released after 1/2 of term 350- 400 manat per month No
9. To be released after 1/3 of term 200- 250 manat per month No
10. To take a shower individually 5 manat No
11. To wash clothes in laundry 1 clothes 50 qəpik-1 manat No
12. To go to Medical Block (“Sanchast”) 200- 500 manat No
13. To stay in Medical Block for an extended time 150- 200 manat per month No
14. To get extended visitation 150- 300 manat No
15. To open small window in the wall (“garmoshka”) 5 manat per hour No
16. To keep fan and electrical stove in cell 10- 30 manat per month No
17. To eat in café 1 plate 3 – 7 manat No
18. To avoid mandatory work in quarantine 250- 300 manat No
19. To play computer games 5 manat per hour No

 

Note: prices in prison store are 1.5 – 4 times higher than common prices.

 

 

Conditions in maximum security Qobustan Prison. Maximum security Qobustan Prison is a place for lifers and for those who committed serious crimes and are gravely sentenced. Local and international monitors as well as relatives of lifers and prisoners of Qobustan Prison continued to report deteriorating conditions and bad human rights at the maximum security Qobustan Prison. Head of the Committee for Protection of Lifers Muslumat Rzakhanova, mother of a lifer who has been in Qobustan Prison for 17 years, reports repressive conditions for those prisoners who cannot protect their rights, do not have any support or are poor. “There is huge censorship of complaints about violence, abuse and mistreatment against prisoners to Ministry of Justice, Penitentiary Service, Ombudsman Institute, President etc. and predominantly such complaints do not reach the addressees. Special regime is applied to prisoners who complain. Even when a healthy prisoner who is in one cell with a sick prisoner requests to change his cell he will be placed into lock-up for 10 days. A prisoner who renovated cell at his own expenses is moved to another dilapidated cell. There is a differentiated attitude to prisoners based on their material welfare. Some prisoners are allowed to watch TV and to listen to radio programs while other poor prisoners are deprived. Prisoners are not allowed to get newspapers or magazines. But the most painful point is that medical aid for prisoners is poor and does not meet standards. Niyazi Eyvazov, the chief of medical block distinguishes between wealthy and poor prisoners who need treatment. Poor prisoners are deprived of medical aid, and are not transferred to medical block even in necessary cases, when they need medical supervision. Everything is purchased and sold here. The other day the government sent some household appliances and clothes to prison. But all these items were given to “special” prisoners based on orders from the chief of prison. One of the main problems is restriction on phone calls. Several months ago began the implementation of the Law on “Observance of individuals’ rights and freedoms in detention centres” that allows lifers to make a phone call once a week, but this right has been restricted by the Chief of Prison. Mostly they tell lies to relatives of inmates -“prisoner doesn’t wish to talk”. One of the prisoners who is subjected to brutal pressure is my son Rzakhanov Shakir. Due to complaints about reprisals sent by me or by my son to relevant officials some false claims were made about my son and his documents were made useless. My son is frequently prohibited from making phone calls, all his requests are denied by order of prison’s chief. Such restrictions and rude attitude are used in respect of inmates who complaint or try to defend their rights. I provided legal aid to my son for a long time based on a power of attorney from him. But today his signature on the power of attorney is not confirmed. I have no doubt that this action is taken under the guidance of the Penitentiary Service management. There are some complaints that prove it. I can submit all of them.”

International institutes as well as the US Department of State also reported poor conditions in maximum security Qobustan Prison.

 

Lifelong problems of “Lifers”. By the way, it should be noted that lifers are also among the prisoners whose rights are violated. When they were convicted by the decision of the court (in the middle of 1990s) there was a death penalty in Azerbaijan. After the death penalty was annulled their punishment has been replaced by life imprisonment. Some of lifers and their relatives appealed to reconsider their cases several times. Not too long ago some of the lifers conducted a hunger strike in order to attract public attention to this issue. As the attitude of relevant bodies to this problem is different no reasonable steps were taken toward resolution of this issue.

Guliyev Ali, a lifer who spent 25 years in prison, appealed to President Ilham Aliyev on behalf of 74 lifers about their current problems. He explained all issues clearly and grounded in law: “Dear president, on behalf of several prisoners I would like to inform you that we were illegally sentenced to life imprisonment without a Court decision, but by paragraph 4 of the law adopted on February 10, 1998 by Milli Mejlis (the national parliament) after the abolition of death sentence in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Paragraph 4 of that law indicated: “The penalties of all convicts sentenced to death, before this law came into force, are automatically replaced with life imprisonment.”

Let me kindly remind, the above mentioned law came into force on February 21, 1998, i.e. 11 days later. Since that day the death penalty applied to 128 persons automatically lost its legal force. Up to date there has been no court decision or relevant law regarding our life imprisonment.

Regarding the violation of above mentioned law, on April 16, 2007 Parliament Assembly of the Council Europe issued Resolution 1545, which indicated in paragraph 8.9 “it is necessary to ensure a case-by-case review of life sentences which were the result of the abolition of the death penalty and allow the persons concerned to benefit from the retroactive application of the more favourable criminal law provision”.

When the death penalty was abolished in Azerbaijan the legal principle of “Power of the Criminal law in regard to the incarceration period” was rudely violated. According to that principle the cases of 128 prisoners should have been reviewed on case-by-case basis in court and according to Article 23 of the old Criminal Law each of us should have been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment or to 15 – 20 years with a possibility of parole from the President. Milli Majlis is a law-making body, but it adopted court power and subjected 128 death-row prisoners to life imprisonment and this action absolutely contradicted the Republic of Azerbaijan legislation, the ratified international legislative norms, and European Convention. Thus, according to the Article 149.7 “the normative legal acts which improve the legal situation of physical and legal persons as well as eliminate and mitigate their legal liability have the retroactive force. Other normative legal acts have no retroactive force.”

According to the Article 11 paragraph 2 of UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we ratified “no one shall have a heavier penalty imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.” This legal principle is described also in Article 15(1) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 7(1) of European Convention on Human Rights. According to Article 151 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan “Whenever there is disagreement between normative-legal acts in legislative system of the Republic of Azerbaijan (except Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and acts accepted by way of referendum) and international agreements wherein the Republic of Azerbaijan is one of the parties, provisions of international agreements shall dominate.”

 

Dear President, of the 128 death-row prisoners that initially faced this injustice 74 are still alive.  A life imprisonment is a much harsher penalty than the death sentence. At this moment there are prisoners who are more than 70 years old, many prisoners are seriously ill and have already served more than 20 years in prison. Not long ago during one of your speeches you said: “Unjust decision is an injustice related to justice.” At one point we, the 128 prisoners, fell victims to an unjust decision. I kindly ask you to pardon us in order to stop the injustice that we faced and to put an end to oppression that we experience in terrible conditions here.”

By the way, it should be noted that up to date only 74 lifers are alive of the 128 prisoners that were sentenced to life imprisonment. Among those 74 lifers there are some prisoners who are more than 70 years old, and a few that are older than 80 and are completely blind; some lifers have served 19, 20, or 25 years in prison.

Due to violation of law committed by Milli Majlis 43 prisoners of 128 died for various reasons and 11 lifers (Muzamil Abdullayev, Nariman Imranov, Surat Huseynov, Rahim Qaziyev, Alikram Humbatov, Eldar Aliyev, Mahir Mammadov, Etibar Ismayilov (father’s name Israfil), Tabriz Ismayilov (father’s name Aghabala), Elkhan Allahverdiyev, Iqor Krianovski (released after extradition) were released after pardon.

 

Violation of freedom of information. The Penitentiary Service, which is responsible for management of prisons, currently resembles a closed corporation. The real and objective public control over Detention Centres and Prisons is almost absent. The Public Committee at Ministry of Justice is developed under the direct guidance of the Minister Fikret Mammadov’s wishes. Protection of prisoners’ rights, control over prisons by this structure is just a mere formality, but their main activities are administrative interferences, glossing over the reprisals against prisoners, an imitation of a due process. Independent NGOs, civil society activists are not allowed to conduct public monitoring, or visit inmates in prisons by order of Madat Guliyev, the chief of the Penitentiary Service. He also clearly denies all requests for information from civil society institutes related to situation in prisons, conditions of prisoners, funds and provisions allocated by the government. While doing so Madat Guliyev violates not only requirements of International Convention on European Prison Rules, but also “Right to Obtain Information” and “Freedom of Information” laws as well as relevant articles of Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan. For example, Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” has requested Madat Guliyev, the chief of the Penitentiary Service, to provide response to the following issues in accordance with the “Right to Obtain Information” law:

- number of Investigatory Isolation Wards and prisons;

- current technical conditions in Investigatory Isolation Wards and prisons as well as the detention condition of prisoners;

- number of new built prisons;

- number of inmates in Investigatory Isolation Wards and prisons;

- what kind of activity is conducted in prisons regarding implementation of “Observation of prisoners’ rights and freedoms in detention centres” law over the latest period;

- why does the Penitentiary Service prohibit many relatives and human rights defenders to visit prisoners;

- what steps are taken in order to improve the detention condition of prisoners;

- what is the amount of funds allocated from budget for 2011 and 2012 period in order to improve the quality of provisions, medical aid, clothes, and to resolve other social problems, and what amount allocated from budget per prison;

- number of inmates who died in prison during 2012;

- number of inmates who transferred to Medical Clinic of the Penitentiary Service for treatment during 2012;

- what diseases afflict inmates.

 

It should be noted with regret, the above mentioned body that provides international organisations with information about the Penitentiary Service in Azerbaijan in all details does not want to share that information with Azerbaijan civil society institutes. Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” began legal action against Madat Guliyev, because he did not satisfy the above-mentioned requests. All these matters demonstrate that the Penitentiary Service’s transparency, openness to society and cooperation with civil society are just words printed on paper.

 

Inhumane and illegal acts of Penitentiary Service. The Penitentiary Service’s actions are not limited by illegal acts such as torture and corruption, but also include inhumane treatment of prisoners. Sometimes officers of the Penitentiary Service personally bring drugs and other narcotics. Meanwhile they do not allow relatives to visit prisoners and take bribes for each visit. By the way, it should be noted that this information is published by the Penitentiary Service. Sometimes prisoners are not even allowed to participate in family funeral ceremonies. Last year, when political prisoner Nemat Panahli’s mother died, he was subjected to this inhumane act.  In February 2014 journalist Fuad Huseynov’s (an inmate in Prison Number 12) father died. Despite the appeal from family to management of the Penitentiary Service regarding this he was not allowed to attend the mourning ceremony. However, the law allows prisoners to participate in a mourning ceremony of a close family member. There are several more examples for this.

 

Political prisoner problem in Azerbaijan. Political prisoner problem in Azerbaijan is the most significant problem of the recent years due to strengthened authoritarian governance and increased restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly, and association; these restrictions include intimidation, arrest, and the use of force against human rights and democracy activists.

It should be noted with great regret, that Azerbaijan is becoming one of the authoritarian countries of the world with the largest number of political and conscience prisoners.

The number of politically motivated detentions and imprisonments has increased sharply since the defeat of a key PACE resolution on “The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan” on 26 January 2013 and moreover, the situation has become even worse since Azerbaijan assumed presidency at the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 14 May 2014.

 

Over the last few years it was impossible to organise a unified list of political prisoners in the country. To be more precise, it was impossible to organise an agreed upon final list of political prisoners among those who were arrested due to their political or public activity. After the arrest of Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov, well-known human rights defenders, the last updated list that includes cases, studied by them and Working Group, which includes experts, lawyers, and human rights activists, has been created and announced to the public on August 12, 2014. The list of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience that includes 98 names and wide information about their cases has been created according to criteria indicated in Resolution 1900 of Parliament Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) issued on October 3, 2014 and demonstrates the real number of political prisoners and situation.

Having main goal to improve the conditions in detention centres in Azerbaijan, protection of prisoners’ rights as well as realisation of idea “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” the Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” supports the list of political prisoners created by the Working Group and states that Alliance will continue its work to provide information about criminal cases and other politically motivated arrests that are not yet known to the public.

The research conducted by Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” demonstrates that there are more than 100 political prisoners. It should be noted with regret that the name of some individuals who were arrested due to political persecution were not included in any submitted list, i.e. the current lists contain the names of those prisoners who are more well-known in society and their relatives as well as their attorneys provided their names to human rights defenders. But there are some political prisoners whose names were not included in any list. For example, Mubariz Abdullayev, an inhabitant of Kurdamir region who lived a tranquil life, was arrested and due to coerced confessions that were received under torture he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.  This was done in order to silence his brother, Elshad Abdullayev, the former rector, the head of Azerbaijan International University, who shared certain videos that exposed the fact of corruption demanded by some officials in order to release his brother, Mahir Abdullayev, who was kidnapped in 2003. Just after Elshad Abdullayev’s “mandate trading” video about the incident that happened 10 years ago, his nephew (brother’s son) Mubariz Abdullayev was absurdly arrested right inside a courtroom. This fact once more demonstrates the political interests of authorities to shift blame and to seek revenge on the former rector for revealing the corruption. Although, Mubariz Abdullayev has never been among those appearing on the video tapes shared by the former rector of AIU who demanded money for the return of Mahir Abdullayev. And Elshad Abdullayev himself confirmed that his nephew has never been nor could have been among those people. It was simply the authorities seeking revenge and wanting to silence Elshad Abdullayev, that is why they arrested his nephew with no reason and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment.

 

Another example; Vugar Ismayilov, an employee of “Kanal113” internet TV, and member of Supreme Council at Tovuz branch of Classic Popular Front Party, was convicted under the Article 221.3 and sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment. He was arrested because of a complaint from employees of Ministry of Transport. During the 2013 presidential elections Vugar Ismayilov supported Jamil Hasanli, the candidate from National Council and took active participation in collection of signatures and propaganda and that is why he was subjected to 7-day detention under the administrative punishment. CPFP and several other institutes as well as human rights defenders consider that the local public activist was slandered and arrested due to his civil-political activity.

It is reported that the arrest of famous meykhana (usually humorous and topical folk verse) singer Bayram Kurdakhanli was conducted for political reasons. Thus the local residents of the settlement where he lives reported that while paving the “Circle road” some land that was included in the city plan and funds allocated for that land were appropriated by the officials of the municipality and the Executive Power of the region. Bayram Kurdakhanli supported the settlement inhabitant’s protest against this unlawfulness and he fell victim to the voice of conscience. It should be said that after the protest of local people the head of the municipality and the representative of Executive Power of that settlement were fired. In the same time the authorities arrested several activists including Bayram Kurdakhanli in order to calm down the protest.

There is no doubt that arrests of Seymur Hazi, an employee of “Azadliq” (Freedom) newspaper and host of “Azerbaijan saati ” (Azerbaijan hours) radio programme, as well Murad Adilov, an activist of APFP are politically motivated. That is why their names must be also included in the “list of political prisoners”. By the way, relatives and attorney reported that Murad Adilov was subjected to torture, violence and mistreatment on the day of detention. But the court did not assess these unlawful actions against him properly and objectively.

Unfortunately, the authorities deny the existence of political prisoners; they conduct new arrests of civil activists instead of resolving the political prisoner problem. But mostly they try to gain time by imitating the establishment of the Working Group. As an example we can see the formation of the Working Group on Human Rights by initiative of Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in order to solve the problem. Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners” supports the steps toward the resolution of the political prisoner problem as well as the idea for the creation of the Working Group initiated by Mr. Jagland. But Public Alliance disagrees with some points related to the formation and activities of the Group:

  1. The Working Group has been created confidentially and privately; this process was not open, transparent or objective;
  2. Purposes, intentions, principles of activity and status of the Working Group are not clear and too abstract;
  3. The election procedures in the Working Group are not fair or clear;
  4. The format and principles of the Working Group, created to address the problem of political prisoners, are not really adequate to address this problem;
  5. The Working Group is composed mainly of representatives of the authorities and pro-government parties, who deny the existence of political prisoners problem in the country,” the statement reads;
  6. The document further stated that the approval by the authorities to begin a dialogue with civil society, in fact, is a dialogue with the authorities themselves;
  7. Most independent civil society organisations and imprisoned political prisoners do not trust members of the Working Group;
  8. Azerbaijan’s leading independent human rights defenders involved in protection of human rights and political prisoner problem were not included in the Working Group;
  9. Invitation to the Working Group of the journalist Khadija Ismailova, and then refusal to accept her participation, says that the Group is not open to different thoughts and does not want to hear differing opinions.

 

Some issues that were not mentioned above demonstrate that the newly established Working Group’s attitude towards protection of human rights in Azerbaijan and resolution of the political prisoners problem will not be objective or fair. Indeed, establishing such groups is just an illusion of due process done in order to reduce domestic and international pressure and to gain time instead of resolving existing problems, and such situation is not appropriate in current conditions. It will be more appropriate for the authorities, which hold more than 100 political prisoners in detention centres, to begin resolution of this problem by immediate release of those who were imprisoned due to their civil-political, human rights protection, religious, journalistic or other activities instead of creating formal groups from parliament members, officials and human rights organisation that are under control of the government.

 

Attitude towards the list with 98 political prisoners…

Among the 98 political prisoners there are 54 prisoners from religious groups, 11 prisoners are members of NIDA – civil youth movement, 11 prisoners are independent individuals, 10 prisoners are heads of NHGs, others prisoners are members of different political parties or organisations.

Charges made against political prisoners are as flows: Forcible conquest of power (Article 278), Resistance to a representative of the authority (Article 315), Inciting public disorder (Article 220.1), Illegal religious propaganda (Article 167), Illegal carrying of a weapon (Article 228), Illegal possession and trading of drugs (Article 234), Hooliganism (Article 221), Tax evasion (Article 213), etc. Most of the convictions under such articles reflect the political motives behind the arrests and are applied to those who engaged in civil-political activities.

The 98 political prisoners included in the list received a total of 630 years of imprisonment as a result of political orders from the current authorities. Taking into account that there are some detainees who are still under investigation and trials of 13 civil activists still continue, their names were not included in this list:

(http://www.azadliq.org/contentinfographics/%C4%B1nfographics/26585960.html – Engish version; http://www.azadliq.org/contentinfographics/%C4%B1nfographics/26562714.html – Azeri version).

Within only two and a half months in the current year political prisoners were sentenced to a total of 145 years of imprisonment. Those prisoners are: young members of NIDA, detainees on “Ismayilli case”, Parviz Hashimli, Anar Mammadli, Bashir Suleymanli and blogger Abdul Abilov.

Another important fact that attracts attention is that since 2012 the number of arrested political prisoners increased significantly and this number grows day by day; i.e. the number of imprisoned civil-political activists is much higher in the last 3 years compared with previous years.

 

Pseudo-pardon orders. From time to time, usually on the eve of different holidays, some human rights organisations and human rights defenders deceivably report about pardon and release of political prisoners. Many media channels that are under government control widely spread false information and try to confuse public opinion. But the reality is completely different; political prisoners remain in prisons, new arrests due to civil-political activity are conducted, and the number of political prisoners grows.

It should be noted that since the presidential pardon order from May 27, 2014 no political prisoners had been released. According to the pardon from October 17, 2014 only 4 of more than 100 political prisoners were released. Those four prisoners requested and asked president to pardon them. By the way, it is should be noted that in cases of pardon the authorities discriminate against prisoners convicted of the same crime and sentenced to the same terms.

On the other hand, authorities use prisoners’ desperate and hopeless situations to force them to ask the president for a pardon. But unfortunately even some of those who appealed to the president for a pardon have not been released by the authorities.

The other grave side of promoters’ endeavour to deceive the public and the prisoners by the “pseudo-pardon orders” is to create in the society an atmosphere of quiet resignation to their fate instead of struggling for the rights of those who were slandered and arrested due to their civil-political activity. In other words, promoters of the “pseudo-pardon orders” try to prove that it is better to seek leniency of the president instead of struggling to protect the rights of the illegally arrested activists. On the other hand, in most cases pardon is granted to those prisoners who appealed to the president or other relevant bodies with a request for a pardon. But this brings a question: why must a political prisoner who did not commit any crime ask for a pardon? Only those who unequivocally committed a crime, but then repented for their crime should ask for pardon. And that is the only reason prisoners should choose to ask for pardon and be released.

Clearly, to force political prisoners into asking for a pardon and to release them via this method is an erroneous approach. All illegally charged prisoners including prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have to be released immediately without any conditions.

 

Problem of political hostages in Azerbaijan. There is also the problem of political hostages along with political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Political hostages include political activists, their relatives, businessmen, etc., who are subjected to repressions, whose activities are restricted and are under control, and those who are prohibited to leave the country. Today there are many political activists, leaders, as well as regular families that are considered political hostages in Azerbaijan. A ban has been imposed on their bank accounts, real properties and possessions and on their opportunity to travel. Multiple false criminal proceedings were brought against most of them a long time ago. Many of them are formal witnesses in those criminal cases. Some political hostages cannot get passports and some of them are just hostages of the authorities, when officials cannot find any reason or pretext against them. Among political hostages in Azerbaijan there is a 7 years old child and an 87 years old man. This is really a big and difficult problem. This problem does not only mean the violation of human rights to take trips abroad, to go shopping there, etc. There are many people who have not been able to see their mother, father, or family for many years. They cannot return to their motherland and some cannot leave the country in order to manage or resolve business problems…

This problem is big and serious. In order to bring this problem up to date and to solve it it is necessary to take reasonable steps. Civil-political activists and civil society institutes have to unite their efforts in this regard.

There are few examples related to above mentioned points: government has prevented foreign travel of APFP chairman Ali Kerimli by refusing to renew his passport for approximately 20 years; also human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev and his son Ali Gulaliyev; former rector of AIU Elshad Abdullayev’s, including his relatives: his brother Ismayil Abdullayev, his nephew (sister’s son) Azad Mursaliyev, his father-in-law Huseyn Azizov, even his 11-year old grandchild, etc. are prohibited from leaving Azerbaijan. Today they are like political hostages in the country.

By the way, it should be noted that there is a “Political hostages” section in the list of 98 political prisoners. APFP chairman Ali Kerimli’s brother-in-law Elnur Seyidov, his father and brother Kerimli Siraj, an activist of Musavat political party, are currently in prison and their names are included in that list. Authors of the list report that relatives of both are political leaders of opposition and due to that fact the authorities illegally hold them in prison as hostages. Take Seyidov Elnur Rafig oglu (date of detention: March 27, 2012) as an example.  Seyidov was a former Deputy Chief of the Yasamal branch of “Texnikabank.” He was arrested by the Ministry of National Security. Initially he was charged with fraud. But later the charge was made more severe. Despite the fact that nine months had passed since Seyidov’s arrest necessary investigative measures had not been taken. His pre-trial detention was extended, although extension of pre-trial detention for a crime can take place only in exceptional cases. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, it is up to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to implement investigative actions on charges of fraud. But the law was severely violated with respect to Seyidov’s arrest, since he was arrested by the MNS, held in the MNS detention centre, and the investigation was carried out by the MNS. Seyidov was arrested 20 days after the arrest of the Texnikabank’s Management Board Etibar Aliyev, and others. He was arrested in connection with the same criminal case. Officially, Seyidov was charged with violating the law under the instruction of and in the favour of the bank’s management. Aliyev, as well as other employees of the bank, have since been released, whereas Seyidov still remains in prison.

Seyidov suffers from multiple sclerosis, for which there are supporting statements from independent and private medical institutes. It is inadmissible to hold someone suffering in this way in closed detention. There is also the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan from 7 March 2012, on state care for patients of multiple sclerosis. The law envisages several measures for taking care of and protecting these patients. One of these measures is the release of these patients from prison. But Seyidov, who suffers from this disease, is still held in prison. Seyidov was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison under a 29 October 2013 decision of the Baku Court of Grave Crimes.

 

Political exile…

There are many people who had to leave the country due to their civil-political activities and who now have serious problem with returning. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov, nominated in 2013 to run for president seats by National Council established by opposition, along with many other politicians, civil society activists, journalists, intellectuals, and former parliament members are exiled from their motherland. They face arrest or ban on foreign travel if return to Azerbaijan. Following individuals can be arrested or subjected to revenge of authorities and have to live in exile: Isa Sadigov, Huseyn Abdullayev, Rza Ibadov, Mirza Sakit, Elshad Abdullayev, Elnur Mejidli, Atakhan Abilov, Habib Muntezir, Agil Khalil, Gabil Rzayev, Fikret Huseynli, Tural Maharramov, Ingilab Kerimov, Surkhan Latifov, Ramin Naghiyev (former MNS officer – France), Ganimat Zahid, Chief Editor of “Azadlig” newspaper, Hasan Gafarov, Kanan Gafarov, Mubariz Azmli (brother of Hajibaba Azimov, head of VAMBP – Sweden), Chaghlar Gasimov (Netherland), Shahin Shushali (National hero), Elmar Shahtakhtinski (USA), Gorkhmaz Asgerov (USA), Ramiz Yunus (USA), Mahir Javadov (Canada), Rasul Guliyev (USA), Natig Efendiyev (former chief of police in Ganja), and others.

 

Conclusion. Summarising the above mentioned points about detention conditions of inmates in prisons of Azerbaijan, observance of prisoners’ rights and the problem of political prisoners it can be concluded that while the government continued to construct new facilities, some Soviet-era facilities did not meet international standards. Many prisoners experienced harsh detention conditions, some of which were life threatening. Overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, deficient heating and ventilation, and poor medical care combined to make the spread of infectious diseases a problem in some facilities. At times the authorities limited visits by attorneys and family members. Efforts to ensure adequate physical exercise for prisoners and opportunities to work or to receive training are not sufficient. Authorities used torture or other mistreatment against inmates.

Corruption in detention centres is one of the serious problems and it is a largely widespread problem. Poor observance of prisoners’ rights and implementation of some laws such as “Observance of prisoners’ rights and freedoms in detention centres” and European Prison Rules as well as gaps in this sphere are the real reasons for concern.

In order to solve problems it is necessary to take serious steps toward improvement, as well as to create all opportunities for laws to work and deep reforms have to be conducted.

Currently the most serious problem is the problem of political prisoners. There are more than 100 inmates in prisons who were arrested due to their civil-political, human rights protection, journalistic activity or religious beliefs. Authorities slander all individuals who pose danger to their power, and arrest them using different charges. Courts make fantastic and absurd decisions in respect of those people. Despite the fact that several domestic and international organisations have pressured Azerbaijan authorities many times government officials continue to arrest new civil activists under the different fictitious pretexts instead of resolving the political prisoners problem. Conducted research demonstrates that Azerbaijan is one of the leaders among CIS and European countries on numbers of political prisoners per capita. This number can be considered as a real index of the human rights situation, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of mass media. This number is also the result of severe punishment used by the current authoritarian regime against civilians. In most cases, criminal proceeding started in accordance to Criminal Law end up with other more severe Article and with maximum sentences. And this tells about the essence of the regime, about its severity as well as about the existing corruption among the law enforcement bodies. Imprisoned people are also punished for their “crimes” in accordance with the unwritten rules of the prisons. Today most detention centres of Azerbaijan look like concentration camps.  Inmates get released from prison not as rehabilitated individuals who understood their mistakes and accepted their punishment, but on the contrary, they exit battered and oppressed, to use prison slang “broken”.

Current Penitentiary Service’s essence, working regime, and attitude towards inmates are the same as they were in the Soviet era.

Most people thought that if Azerbaijan becomes member of Council of Europe, ratifies European Prison Rules and many other Conventions, serious reforms would be conducted in this sphere, but unfortunately that has not happened yet. On the other hand, some dirty deeds such as revenge, repressions, creation of threats among people sprung up from the essence of the regime and subjected people to more brutality in the cold cells of prison.

According to the information gained all Investigative Isolation Wards and Prisons are filled with inmates. Extremely high number of prisoners is not appropriate for the small cell size. This fact is confirmed in reports of many domestic and international organisations.

In order to improve the detention conditions, observance of prisoners’ rights, and to solve the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan immediate and comprehensive measures have to be planned and implemented.

 

 

 

 

Recommendations:

In order to improve the conditions and infrastructure, to ensure the protection and observance of prisoners’ rights and duties, and to solve the problem of political prisoners in detention centres of Azerbaijan some recommendations are provided below:

 

  1. Reform the Azerbaijan legislation basis in particular with respect to improvement of the conditions in detention centres and observance of prisoners’ rights as well as ensuring the law works with full force;
  2. Ensure the total implementation of the law on “Observance of prisoners’ rights and freedoms in detention centres”;
  3. Destroy the old Investigative Isolation Wards that are dangerous to life and accelerate the construction of new facilities;
  4. Ensure the transparent activity, accountability, and openness to the public of the Penitentiary Service and ensure that requests for information from civil society institutes are satisfied;
  5. The facts of torture and corruption must be investigated with high importance and resolved; to take measures against officials who committed illegal acts;
  6. Put an end to discrimination against civil society institutes wishing to visit inmates in prisons in order to monitor the situation, and to study their problems;
  7. The rules dedicated to improvement of the general situation and conditions in detention centres, as well as ensuring the observance of prisoners’ rights and duties have to be absolutely compatible with European Prison Rules, which Azerbaijan ratified;
  8. Improve the quality of food, provisions, medical aid, social services; increase the professionalism the Penitentiary Service staff, their attitude towards prisoners should be regulated by law;
  9. The cases of lifers sentenced to life imprisonment in the mid 1990s have to be reviewed case-by-case;
  10. Put an end to all persecutions due to civil-political activity of individuals. Immediately release all presumed political prisoners without any conditions. Azerbaijan government should compensate every political prisoner for all material and moral damages.

THE LIST OF USED SOURCES AND DOCUMENTS

 

  1. The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan
  2. Law on “Observance of prisoners’ rights and freedoms in detention centres” of the Republic of Azerbaijan
  3. The Rules on participation of society in rehabilitation of prisoners and conduction of public control on activity of centres that implements punishment
  4. International convention on European Prison Rules
  5. The Report of the US Department of State
  6. The Report of International Committee of the Red Cross
  7. The Report of Amnesty International
  8. Interview with former prisoner of conscience, attorneys and human rights defenders
  9. Web page of the Penitentiary Service of Ministry of Justice
  10. “SPACE” Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics on criminal cases and punishment

 

(This report is prepared by Public Alliance “Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners”.

All rights reserved. Using any information from this report requires proper reference.)

 

 

November, 2014

 

 

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