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Amnesty International Report 1999 - Azerbaijan

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Azerbaijan, 1 January 1999, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


At least five possible prisoners of conscience were reportedly held solely on grounds of their ethnic origin. There were numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention. All death sentences were commuted and the death penalty was abolished for all crimes.

In February parliament adopted overwhelmingly a bill, proposed the previous month by President Heydar Aliyev, which abolished the death penalty completely from the criminal code.

Also in February President Aliyev issued a decree "On measures to ensure human rights and the rights and freedoms of citizens", which contained a range of proposals to parliament on promoting and protecting human rights. This was followed in June by a "State program for the defence of human rights", which included the intention to: ratify the first and Second Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the end of the year; improve conditions in pre-trial and penal institutions; and establish the institution of an ombudsperson. In December parliament voted to ratify the Second Optional Protocol, but by the end of the year there had been no decision on the first and no ombudsperson appointed.

The cease-fire of May 1994 held in the disputed Karabakh region (see Amnesty International Report 1998), and mediation for a political resolution continued.

There were further allegations that ethnic Armenian civilians were held as hostages solely on grounds of their ethnic origin. They were possible prisoners of conscience. The Azerbaijani authorities in the past stated that ethnic Armenians suspected of, for example, complicity in acts of political violence were taken to a special holding centre in the town of Gobustan and detained while their identity and reasons for travelling in Azerbaijan were confirmed. However, there were reports that ethnic Armenians were still being held although no evidence of criminal activity had been found and no criminal charges had been laid against them. They included Artur Papayan, who was said to have been seized in January 1997, when aged 17, while walking in Armenia's border district of Taushsky (see Am-nesty International Report 1998). Zhora Oganesyan was said to have been seized by persons unknown in Sadakhlo in Georgia in July 1997 after he had left his home in Armenia during a period of mental illness. He was handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities at some point, and was still held in Gobustan until the second half of the year.

New cases were also reported. Armine Kurdoyan was said to have been detained at Baku airport in February after arriving from Moscow on a flight which she believed would make only a transit stop in Azerbaijan. Artur Papayan, Zhora Oganesyan and Armine Kurdoyan were reportedly released in prisoner exchanges in the second half of the year.

There were numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Most of them related to pre-trial detention. Allegations were also made in connection with convicted prisoners, police conduct at demonstrations, and during brutal hazing (bullying and humiliating) of new recruits by or with the tacit consent of senior soldiers and officers. Although the majority of allegations related to male detainees, in some cases their wives and other female relatives were reportedly threatened with rape or other abuses as a way of exerting pressure on prisoners to confess. Unofficial sources said that proceedings in alleged ill-treatment cases were either not instituted or, if opened, rarely resulted in prosecution or imprisonment.

Lawyer Namik Aliyev, for example, alleged that both he and his client Zeybulla Abdulkerimov were assaulted in March by officers at police station No. 29 in the Yasamalsky District of Baku. Namik Aliyev reported that he met his client briefly at the station, at which point he had no visible signs of injury. When the lawyer returned later the same day, he noticed that Zeybulla Abdulkerimov had a fresh bruise on his face. Namik Aliyev said that he demanded that his client be given a medical examination, but that instead he was himself verbally abused and beaten by two police officers. The beating was said to have taken place in front of his client, employees of the police station and other people who were in the police station at the time. Namik Aliyev was then searched, placed in a cell and taken an hour later to a hospital to be tested for alcohol. He alleged he was returned to a cell before being released later that evening after his father and colleagues intervened. A doctor who examined Namik Aliyev after his release reportedly found contusions to his head and buttocks. Two police officers were reported to have been charged in connection with the incident, but no trial was known to have taken place by the end of the year.

In at least four instances, law enforcement officials did stand trial charged with ill-treatment of detainees and other offences. Mahammad Agahanov was tried at the beginning of the year on charges of murder and bribe-taking. The case concerned the death in custody in July 1997 of Samir Zulfugarov after he was allegedly beaten severely by officers from an anti-drug unit in Baku (see Amnesty International Report 1998). Samir Zulfugarov's father alleged that Mahammad Agahanov and another officer had demanded money for his son's release, which he paid after seeing his injured son in custody. Mahammad Agahanov was acquitted on both counts after testifying that the death occurred at another police station.

Three other police officers received long prison sentences after being convicted of physically assaulting in 1994 Jamal Aliyev, a detainee who subsequently died in custody. In another case, a prison guard was given a conditional prison sentence for assaulting a convicted prisoner, who suffered a broken rib.

In May a former police officer, Adyl Ismaylov, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for, among other things, raping the mother of a detainee. Baku City Court heard that Adyl Ismaylov, then head of the investigation department of Baku City Police Administration, had noticed the woman while interrogating her son in June 1996. According to the court, Adyl Ismaylov had asked her to accompany him to his office, where he raped her.

After the death penalty was abolished in February, 128 men on death row at that time had their sentences commuted to terms of imprisonment. Conditions on death row had been said to be severely overcrowded: in some cells prisoners had to take turns to sleep. By April, 102 former death row inmates had been moved to a different prison. Those remaining included several political prisoners who claimed their transfer to better conditions had been delayed as a punishment.

Amnesty International sought further information on possible prisoners of conscience and urged the release of anyone held without charge as a hostage or solely because of their ethnic origin.

The organization urged that all allegations of ill-treatment and torture by law enforcement officials be investigated promptly and impartially, with the findings made public and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Amnesty International welcomed the abolition of the death penalty in February and the subsequent commutation of all death sentences.

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