Azerbaijan: Great relief as OMCT General Assembly Member Leyla Yunus is released on probation
Geneva, December 11,
2015 - The
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the leading
global network of civil society organisations against torture, summary
executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment in the world, welcomes the release on probation of Azerbaijani
human rights defender and OMCT General Assembly member Leyla Yunus after nearly
one year and a half of arbitrary detention and seriously deteriorating health.
On December 9, 2015, the Baku Court of Appeal
commuted the sentences against Leyla
Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member
of OMCT General Assembly, and her husband, Arif Yunusov, to a release on
probation for five years.
Both had been sentenced to 8,5 and 7 years of
imprisonment respectively on August 13, 2015, following a procedure that
grossly disregarded international standards of fair trial and due process. The right to medical treatment of the Yunus couple was
blatantly violated by the authorities who repeteadly denied their release on
humanitarian grounds despite the critical level their health condition had reached.
“The global anti-torture family united in the
OMCT feels today relieved. Our thoughts are with Leyla and her husband and their
family. We want on behalf of the OMCT to thank all those that have used their
influence publicly or privately for her release”, said OMCT President Yves Berthelot.
This decision follows months of intense advocacy
and missions of trial observations carried out by OMCT along with many others,
including in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders and the Sport for Rights campaign.
Furthermore, the OMCT notes that this decision
took place exactly the same day as the United Nations Committee Against Torture
(UNCAT) published its Concluding Observations following its review of Azerbaijan last
November. In its Observations, the UNCAT specifically refers to the arbitrary imprisonment
of Leyla and Arif Yunus. Already, on November 12, Arif Yunusov had been
conditionally released on humanitarian grounds on the day that Azerbaijan was
reviewed by the UNCAT in Geneva.
The OMCT hopes that this release will be
followed with an unconditional release, the dropping of all charges and the
ability to travel.
“Thepriority is now to allow Leyla and Arif to fully recover and we are
looking forward to seeing them both soon”, said Yves Berthelot. “This moment of relief should,
however, not distract us from the fact that a good number of leading human
rights defenders in Azerbaijan remain in detention today who will continue to
require all our attention”.