Azerbaijan: Court decision forbidding Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunusov to travel abroad to receive medical treatment
APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
AZE 002 / 0414 / OBS 031.13
Deterioration of health / Risk for the physical
March 18, 2016
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme
of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International
Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests
your urgent intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.
has been informed by reliable sources about a court decision forbidding Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute
for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly, and her
husband Mr. Arif Yunusov, Head of
IPD Conflictology Department, to travel abroad to receive medical treatment.
the information received, on March 11, 2016, the Court of Appeals in Baku ruled
that Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunus could not travel to Germany to receive
urgent medical treatment due to their suspended prison terms. On February 11,
2016, the Yasamal District Court of Baku had already denied them permission to
temporarily leave the country. The Yunus couple said that they would appeal the
Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov were 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 (see background
information). On December 9, 2015,
their sentence was commuted to a release on probation for five years.
Mr. Arif Yunusov suffers from hypertension, and Ms. Leyla
Yunus from hepatitis, diabetes, pancreatitis and gallstone disease, which were
aggravated after her arrest. Both are in urgent need of surgery and medical
care. Their medical situation was confirmed by Dr. Christian Witt, from the
Berlin clinic Charite, who visited the Yunus couple in jail while they were in
detention and since their release, and confirmed the deterioration of their
health status. The Yunus couple could receive urgent and life-saving treatment
at the Berlin clinic Charite.
Observatory regrets the Court’s decision which puts at serious risk Ms. Leyla
Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov’s physical integrity, and calls upon the authorities
of Azerbaijan to ensure they can receive urgently the medical care they need
including medication and hospitalisation abroad as required.
Observatory further calls on the Azeri authorities to immediately and
unconditionally put an end to the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Leyla
Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov, since it is only aimed at sanctioning their
legitimate human rights activities.
Ms. Leyla Yunus has long fought for human rights and the rights of ethnic
minorities in her country. She has been heading the IPD since 1995. In October
2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus was awarded the Polish Prize of Sérgio Vieira de Mello,
and was among the three finalists for the Sakharov Prize. She also received the
distinction of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur” of the
French Republic in 2013. She has worked on numerous projects relating to human
rights, political prisoners, corruption, human trafficking, gender-based issues
and violations of the right to property. With her husband, Ms. Yunus has also
worked towards reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, two countries
divided by the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
On July 30,
2014, Ms. Yunus was arrested by the Prosecutor’s office on charges of “treason”
(Article 274 of the Criminal Code), “large-scale fraud” (Article 178.3.2),
“forgery” (Article 320), “tax evasion” (Article 213), and “illegal business”
(Article 192), and brought to the department of grave crimes of the General
Prosecutor’s Office, where she underwent a six-hour questioning. Her husband
joined her at the department of grave crimes of the General Prosecutor’s
Office, where he was also questioned. Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov were both
formally charged, and placed in pre-trial detention. Mr. Yunusov was later
placed under house arrest, and placed in detention again on August 5, for
violation of his conditional sentence.
On January 5, 2015 and February 2, 2015, the European Court of Human Rights
communicated on two applications filed for violations of the rights of Ms.
Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov.
On July 15, 2015, the trial opened in the Baku Grave Crimes Court. During
trial, Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov were placed in a glass courtroom cage, with
their Azeri to Russian interpreter sitting near the cage (both are
Russian-speaking, and the hearings were held in Azeri). Local and international
observers were often denied access to the courtroom without explanation and
hearings were held in the smallest room of the courthouse.
During the trial, the lawyers of Ms. Yunus regularly argued that continued
detention was life threatening to Ms. Yunus, highlighting that Ms. Yunus was
suffering from diabetes, hepatitis C, and a liver enlargement and
deterioration. The lawyer also denounced the poor conditions of detention of
his client at the Investigative prison of the Ministry of National Security,
where Mr. Arif Yunusov suffers from insomnia high blood pressure. Throughout
the trial, all motions filed by the defence lawyers, including the request to
sit next to his clients, were dismissed.
At the hearing of August 3, 2015, an ambulance was called in order to provide
first aid healthcare to Mr. Yunusov, who fainted due to a worryingly high
arterial pressure. Mr. Yunus later regained consciousness but the doctor of the
National Security prison who was called to the court after the health incident,
reportedly stated that Mr. Yunusov health condition did not allow him to
further participate in the trial. However, the judge decided to adjourn the
hearing to the next day, August 4, 2015.
On August 13, Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov were convicted to 8.5 and 7 years in
jail respectively. Mr. Arif Yunusov fainted while making his final plea.
On October 12, 2015, the appeal trial of Ms. Leyla and Mr. Arif Yunusov opened
before the Baku Court of Appeal. The hearing was suspended several times.
International observers present reported that Ms. Yunus looked very weak
and denounced being refused the medical treatment prescribed by the German
On October 20, the Baku Court of Appeal decided to refer the criminal case
against Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunusov back to the Baku Grave Crimes Court,
following a complaint filed by their lawyer, highlighting inaccuracies in the
minutes of the hearings of the trial before the lower court. On November 5,
2015, the court considered this motion, but did not provide its conclusions to
the defence attorneys during the preliminary hearing held before the Baku Court
During the hearing on November 5, all the motions filed by their lawyers were
dismissed by the Presiding Judge Vugar Mammadov, including the motion to change
the measure of restraint from detention to house arrest considering in
particular their health condition and to partial re-examination of the case.
Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov's lawyer was not allowed to meet and
discuss with his clients before, during and after the hearing. During the
hearing, several large bruises were visible on the neck of Leyla Yunus. Both
Arif and Leyla Yunus looked visibly exhausted and weak. Mr. Arif Yunus was
reportedly brought to the courtroom from the hospital. Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr.
Arif Yunusov's lawyer announced that he would file a complaint regarding
potential acts of ill-treatment. Placed in a glass cage before the observers
were allowed to the courtroom, the two stayed silent during the whole hearing.
12, 2015, the Baku Grave Crimes Court approved the request to change the
measure of restraint against Mr. Arif Yunusov from detention to conditional
release, for the period of appeal. Under the terms of the decision, Mr. Yunusov
cannot leave Baku. The decision was based on a medical reference provided by
the Head of the Department of Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice,
stressing that the critical health situation of Mr. Yunusov had required his
transfer from the Isolator of the Ministry of National Security to the Medical
Establishment of the Ministry of Justice. The reference indicated that while
transfer had allowed his situation to be normalised temporarily, it remained
problematic to ensure stable blood pressure under the conditions of
imprisonment. The document reportedly also referred to the medical inspection
of German doctor Christian Witt, which had confirmed the deterioration of his
health. The Baku Grave Crimes Court could review its decision in case of a
positive change in the health of Mr. Yunusov.
During the November-12 hearing, the lawyers of the defendants indeed also asked
the court to consider a similar measure for Ms. Leyla Yunus given her critical
health condition, but the court did not even allow them to finalise their
request and interrupted them on the grounds that the abovementioned medical
reference referred only to Mr. Arif Yunusov. Speaking from the glass courtroom
cage, Mr. Yunusov demanded the release of his wife based on her critical health
December 9, 2015, Ms. Leyla Yunus was released after the Baku
Court of Appeal commuted the sentences against her and her husband to a release
on probation for five years.
they both are still facing charges of treason in a separate judicial process.
Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to:
that Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov can receive the medical care they
need including urgent medication and hospitalisation abroad as required;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and
psychological integrity of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov, and all human
rights defenders in Azerbaijan;
an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against
Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov, and more generally all human rights
defenders in Azerbaijan;
iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human
Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on
December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1, 5, and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international
instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.
Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: email@example.com,
Eldar Mahmudov, Minister of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan,
Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan,
Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Murad N. Najafbayli, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the
United Nations in Geneva, E-mail: email@example.com
write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective
country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.
March 18, 2016
inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your
Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human
rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax OMCT +41 22 809 49 39 /
+41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH +33 1 43 55 25 18 /
+33 1 43 55 18 80