Posts Tagged ‘Mehman Huseynov’

Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova being disbarred

February 10, 2021
Shahla Humbatova. Photo: US State Department.

On 9 February 2021 Hamida Giyasbayli of OC Media reports that Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova has vowed to fight disbarment procedures against her despite what she says is a campaign of ‘harassment and threats’ from the Bar Association.

The Azerbaijani Bar Association has accused Humbatova of submitting a fake document as evidence during a civil case she was litigating, a criminal offence. They have also accused her of owing ₼460 ($270) in membership fees.  The association has taken her to court in an attempt to disbar her, which would strip her of the right to practice law.

Humbatova is well known in Azerbaijan for taking on high-profile human rights cases, including those of queer Azerbaijanis as well as blogger Mehman Huseynov. The move to disbar her follows the disbarment of dozens of other human rights lawyers in recent years, leaving few remaining lawyers taking on such cases. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/e761cd05-65b0-4a02-8abe-e8ce9c58faed]

Speaking with OC Media, Humbatova said the allegation she submitted fake documents was baseless, and that her defence had submitted evidence proving this.

She confirmed that she had owed eight months of membership fees, but insisted the association did not make any effort to notify her of this. ‘I learned about this from the media the day after the Board’s decision [to take me to court]’, she said.  She immediately made the payment, so when the Bar went to court with her disbarment request, there was no longer any debt. Emin Abbasov, a legal practitioner who also works on human rights cases, criticised the proceedings against Humbatova for being conducted behind closed doors and without any records.  Abbasov, along with four others, is himself appealing to the European Court of Human Rights after being denied certification by the Bar Association.                                                                                                                     

Humbatova told OC Media that the move to disbar her was a continuation of the policy of dismantling human rights defenders in the country.  ‘It is lawyers and human rights activists who are fighting against politically motivated arrests, torture, repression of dissidents and those who simply demand their rights, and informing the public and international organisations. Therefore, they are being neutralised’, she stated.

In December 2019, 42 member organisations of the Human Rights House, a global rights group, called on the Azerbaijani Bar Association to ‘halt reprisals against a number of human rights lawyers, including Shahla Humbatova and Elchin Sadigov’. Sadigov is Humbatova’s current lawyer. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/

Annual reports 2019: Azerbaijan in review – muted hope for 2020

January 20, 2020

On 13 January 2020 Arzu Geybullayeva published for the above-mentioned NGO a report on Azerbaijan in 2019.

It was a rather hectic year in 2019 in Azerbaijan, President Aliyev decided on a series of changes, layoffs and replacements of senior officials. For some a wave of reforms, for others yet another make-up, in view of the early parliamentary elections of 9th February On December 27th, 2019, former political prisoner and popular citizen journalist Mehman Huseynov disappeared after being detained for staging a solo protest in the heart of Baku. He was able to be reached only the next day. In his own account of the incident, Huseynov was abducted by a police gang, beaten, and taken to an unidentified location where he was then released. Huseynov was demanding the immediate release of rapper Paster (Parviz Guluzade), who was arrested a day earlier. [see for an earlier post on him: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/03/07/azerbaijan-harasses-human-rights-defenders-even-the-recipient-of-the-homo-homini-award/]….His case ended December 2018 with a bang, with freedom advocates across the world joining efforts in calling on the authorities to drop new charges against Huseynov, who was already serving a two-year jail sentence. 2019 began with continued efforts to ensure Huseynov’s release under the campaign #FreeMehman.

When President Ilham Aliyev began sacking some of his high-ranking officials in 2019, some observers were quick to hail a wind of change. When one of the oldest serving government representatives was let go, along with some other reshuffling, pundits applauded the long-awaited changes. Sadly these changes, in the long run, would mean little, especially when considering real progress and reforms. ……………

Much of the cabinet reshuffling took place following a weekend of protests in October. On October 19th, the National Council of Democratic Forces – an umbrella group of Azeri opposition groups – organised an unauthorised rally that was violently dispersed by the local police and resulted in many arrests of participants and organisers. Organisers and participants of the march demanded the release of all political prisoners, free and fair elections, and an end to economic injustice. The following day, a group of women activists took the streets demanding an end to all forms of violence against women. The march was the second of its kind, following the women’s march organised on International Women’s Day.

The crackdown against women activists was not surprising at all, considering President Ilham Aliyev’s personal views on gender equality, which he delivered during the centenary of Baku State University on November 26th, 2019. “We live in a traditional society, and we shall continue to do so. We must respect women, we must protect them, not the other way around. There is gender equality. We accept it. But we must also accept that we cannot live away from a traditional mindset and the young generation should know this […] I have said this before. We won’t integrate [into Europe] where there is no difference between men and women”.

Another example of these so-called reforms was the disciplinary measure taken against human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova. On November 27th, 2019, the Azeri Bar Association suspended Humbatova, who is also facing disbarment on the basis of a complaint from a past client and the alleged failure to pay several months of Bar membership dues, according to a statement issued by the International Bar Association in support of Humbatova. In her defense, Humbatova had admitted falling behind in her bar payments – however, the lawyer refutes the rest of the accusations. “The decision to suspend her license and seek her disbarment is an unambiguously disproportionate punishment. The case is seen as a part of the relentless persecution of independent lawyers in Azerbaijan. In recent years, a growing number of independent lawyers have been subjected to harassment, criminal prosecution and disbarment in retaliation for their work on high-profile, politically sensitive cases, especially those concerning human rights violations”, read the rest of the statement. Previously, the Bar disbarred human rights lawyers Irada Javadova, Yalchin Imanov, Alayif Hasanov, and Khalid Bagirov. These recent allegations also come months after President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on judicial reforms.

….

2019 brought some good news too. In March, about fifty political prisoners were pardoned. None of them, however, should have spent a second in jail in the first place. The news of some young candidates winning in December’s municipal elections was encouraging. Some of them, who did not make it as a result of gross electoral violations, have joined forces and set up a political “Movement ” bloc ahead of the extraordinary parliamentary election scheduled for February 9th, 2020. The bloc consists of activists, political party and youth movement members, and rights defenders. There is more awareness about women’s rights and there is hope 2020 will bring more positive change. Judging from last year, it is highly recommended to keep expectations low.

https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Areas/Azerbaijan/Azerbaijan-2019-year-of-make-up-198786

Time for Azerbaijan to quit the Council of Europe !

November 14, 2014

This video clip is an excellent introduction to the the question of whether Azerbaijan still belongs in the Council of Europe.

Azerbaijan wrapped up its chairmanship on November 13 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan took over as chair of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s executive arm and decision-making body, back in May. Over the course of its six-month term, authorities in Baku bullied and imprisoned scores of  journalists and human rights defenders, jailing some of the country’s most prominent such as Leyla and Arif Yunus, on trumped-up charges. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov attended a ceremony in Strasbourg on November 13 marking the transfer of the chairmanship from Azerbaijan to Belgium. A document posted on the Council of Europe’s website states that “Azerbaijan deployed considerable efforts in furthering the objectives of the Council of Europe around its three key pillars – human rights, rule of law and democracy.”

This assertion makes a mockery of reality as shown by the statements of a great many actors from international NGOs, OSCE to regional defenders networks:

  • Giorgi Gogia, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch: “It can be said without exaggeration that Azerbaijan’s tenure represented an assault on the institution and everything it [the Council of Europe] stands for”.
  • Two regional networks, the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders, addressed an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev, detailing government rights abuses and calling for immediate changes. “We specifically call upon you [Aliyev] to immediately and unconditionally release all civil society actors currently detained due to their engagement in human rights activities and for raising critiques against Azerbaijan’s authorities”.
  • Another rights network called the Civic Solidarity Platform released the No More Business as Usual video at the top of this post,  urging policymakers in European Union member states to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its rights violations. “It is a disgrace Azerbaijan used its chairmanship … not to improve its human right record, but, on the contrary, to jail activists and journalists and to get further away from international standards of democracy and rule of law.”
  • Dunja Mijatovic, media representative of the normally careful 57-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement “Practically all independent media representatives and media NGOs have been purposefully persecuted under various, often unfounded and disturbing charges“. [She spoke after Azeri blogger Mehman Huseynov was detained at Baku international airport earlier in the day while trying to depart for Georgia to attend the 11th South Caucasus Media Conference on the invitation of the OSCE. Huseynov was released after several hours of questioning. In 2012 he was hit with a three-year travel ban after being convicted of resisting and insulting police.
  • Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on 31 October cited the case of Azerbaijani human rights defender and journalist Khadija Ismayilova in calling on OSCE participating States to refrain from pressuring or harassing individuals for their legitimate activities in supporting the promotion and protection of human rights. “Ismayilova was detained and questioned at the end of September upon returning from the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, where she raised concerns over failures by the Azerbaijani authorities to meet the country’s commitments in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Link said. “I raised her case yesterday in my first report to the OSCE Permanent Council, stressing that human rights defenders have to be able to work free of harassment and intimidation.” A clear case of reprisal!
  • The Sakharov Freedom Award went to 98 Azeri prisoners: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/sakharov-freedom-award-goes-to-98-azeri-political-prisoners/
  • Several other human rights defenders were sentenced to varying prison terms earlier this year on charges included tax evasion, illegal business activity and hooliganism. Defense lawyers called the charges unfounded and politically motivated. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/

Among the many sources used:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/10/us-azerbaijan-rights-idUSKCN0IU1TG20141110

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/70901

No more business as usual for Azerbaijan – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

http://www.osce.org/odihr/126225

http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/20559.html

Azerbaijan harasses human rights defenders, even the recipient of the Homo Homini Award

March 7, 2013

( Ane Tusvik Bonde of HRHF  and Intigam Aliyev with the Homo Homini Award received on 4 March 2013)

In its intervention on 5 March 2013 at the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) welcomed the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, including the one to the General Assembly on legislation affecting human rights defenders. HRHF stated that they are concerned, as is the Special Rapporteur, by the fact that more and more countries misuse or design legislation in order to impede or even criminalise the work of human rights defenders, or to label them as “foreign agents” such as in the Russian Federation.

HRHF especially welcomed the communications re Azerbaijan, as published in the addendum to the Rapporteur’s report, including the communication about the closure of the Azerbaijan Human Rights House on 16 March 2011 and  the warnings against two NGOs threatened to be closed for their online publications on 5 March 2012. This communication has still not been answered. HRHF also regretted that Azerbaijan has not to date replied to the communication of the Special Rapporteur in relation to the arrest of photographer and blogger Mehman Huseynov, a case it already brought to the attention of the Council in July 2012.

Azerbaijan continues to use detention of human rights defenders as a tool to silence them. Most recently, on Saturday 26 January 2013, Intigam Aliyev was amongst 47 other demonstrators arrested for peacefully protesting in Baku. He was awarded the Homo Homini Award in Prague on 4 March, for his exceptional and courageous work in favour of human rights. Intigam Aliyev’s remains disbarred and his NGO blocked. In relation to this protest of 26 January,  Emin Milli was sentenced to administrative detention for 15 days for promoting the protest on Facebook in violation of article 298.1 and 298.2 of the code of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Emin Milli was previously detained for 16 months along with Adnan Hajizade for publishing a critical video on Youtube. http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/19109.html