Azerbaijan: The United Nations find the detention of Hilal Mammadov arbitrary; immediate release and compensation requested

HilalMammadovParis-Geneva, March 27, 2014. FIDH and OMCT, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, welcome the opinion rendered by the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which considers the detention of human rights defender Hilal Mammadov as arbitrary, and requests his immediate release.

Mr. Hilal Mammadov is a defender of the rights of the Talysh ethnic minority and Editor-in-chief of the Tolishi-Sado (Voice of Talysh) newspaper. He was arrested on June 21, 2012, and sentenced to five years in prison following unfair proceedings lodged on the basis of spurious criminal offences relating to “illegal selling of drugs”, “high treason”, and “incitement to national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility” under Articles 234.4.3, 274 and 283 of the Azeri Criminal Code. Mr. Mammadov has remained detained since then. The Observatory has been following his situation very closely since his arrest.

The opinion of the UN WGAD (A/HRC/WGAD/2013/59) was adopted during its 68th session held in November 2013, and transmitted on March 19, 2014 to the Observatory as the “source” of the information the WGAD received on the case.

According to the WGAD “the Government did not provide any satisfactory explanation as to the allegations put forward by the source concerning the arbitrary character of the charges against Mr. Mammadov and his subsequent conviction” and “the response from the Government does not adequately address the source’s allegations of ill-treatment (…) in detention, its concerns for his health, nor the groundless rejection of his application for an audio-visual recording of the hearing”.

Accordingly, the UN WGAD concluded that “the charges of treason and incitement to national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility are based on Mr. Mammadov’s legitimate exercise of the right of freedom of expression under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, and that the violations of international law relating to the right to a fair trial are of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Hilal Mammadov an arbitrary character, under categories II and III of its methods of work.

The Observatory urges the Azeri authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Hilal Mammadov, in line with the UN WGAD opinion, as his conviction and detention is a mere attempt to silence his efforts to report human rights violations and defend minority rights in his country.

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