Azerbaijan: Deep concerns about the recurrent use of the state of emergency

During the 79th Session of the Committee Against Torture (CAT) on Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th April 2024, the CAT conducted its 5th periodic review of Azerbaijan. The country rapporteurs were Mr. Buchwald and Ms. Racu.

The country delegation was led by Mr. Samir Sharifov, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Main issues discussed

The experts noted the end of the conflict in Nagorno- Karabakh, however highlighted the continued climate of intolerance in Azerbaijan of ethnic Armenians.

CAT was worried about the lack of information provided relating to any criminal investigations into allegations of torture and ill treatment within places of detention including disciplinary actions taken against guards for the excessive and disproportionate use of force. The budget allocation to the maintenance of prisons was well below the average per person per day at just €7.79 in 2021. The experts raised concern about reports that there has been a 38% increase between 2021 and 2022 of the deaths in custody and asked Azerbaijan for updated figures.

The CAT raised concerns regarding the conditions within detention centers in Azerbaijan. Highlighting the issues of overcrowding, lack of appropriate facilities, inappropriateness of medical examinations and treatment and lack of protections for juveniles in detention. The Committee raised concerns about an overall lack of awareness among prisoners of their rights and questioned if it was obligatory for detainees to be informed of their rights. The CAT expressed concern about the right to access a lawyer of their choice within 24 hours of their arrest.

The CAT highlighted the lack of sufficient and mandatory training on the Istanbul Protocol for medical personnel and other law enforcement and judicial officers who deal with detainees. The lack of effective investigation and documentation of torture and other ill-treatment was noted with concern highlighting the virtually empty injury registry within detention centers.

The experts raised concerns about the arbitrary arrest and torture of journalists and human rights defenders, particularly their failure to investigate them. The experts noted that this issue was already raised in the previous review of Azerbaijan in 2018, since the last review there has been a rise in such occurrences.

The committee is further concerned about human trafficking allegations. Experts raised that there was a lack of independent monitoring and a lack of pro-active identification of those who have been trafficked.

CAT noted reports of disproportional use of force in the case of peaceful protests. They highlighted the case of July 2023 in Sierra Village, where disproportional force by police caused injury of a dozen residents who were peacefully protesting.

The CAT’s recommendations are available here.

Follow-up recommendations:

The State party should provide information by the 10th of May 2025 on the implementation of recommendations regarding

  • Access to and independence of lawyers.
  • The adoption of a zero-tolerance approach to torture.
  • The protection of human rights defenders and journalists.
  • The investigation and prosecution of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in connections with hostilities in the region.

Watch here (part one and part two) of the dialogue with the CAT.