Geneva-Brussels, April 13, 2021 – At least 78 Azerbaijani citizens have been detained and sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in prison, with multiple cases of torture, including 11 deaths in custody of Azerbaijani military personnel and civilians. This is the grim result of the so-called ‘Terter Case’ according to our findings on a situation that has remained widely unreported.
Beginning May 7, 2017, the Prosecutor General, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service of Azerbaijan issued a joint statement alleging that a group of military personnel and civilians had been leaking military secrets to the intelligence and special units of the Armenian Armed Forces. The authorities subsequently opened up a criminal case for State treason under Article 274 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan and launched a special investigative group with the law enforcement agencies. The arrests that took place were concentrated in the Tartar region.
Over the first two days, May 7-8, 2017, the media reported 47 arrests in one day and did not reveal any names of detainees. After May 8, 2017, the media reporting ended, yet unconfirmed reports from the frontline about human rights violations continued. Reliable information from the human rights NGO “Institute for Peace and Democracy” (IPD) shows that those arrested under Article 274 were taken from their homes, were not given access to lawyers, and were imprisoned without court decisions. There were also cases of editors being summoned to the Prosecutor General’s office where they were warned against distributing “State secrets”.
As of today, we are aware of 78 people who have been detained and sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in prison. We are also aware that those who are detained have been and continue to be subjected to torture, with 11 confirmed deaths as a result of that torture. Detainees have been tortured in an attempt to extract confessions of treason. Testimonies of the families of those who have been confirmed to have died from torture have shown that their bodies were not always given to their families, or that the cause of their deaths was hidden or disguised as something other than torture.
In 2019 a human rights defender, Oktay Gulaliev, who was attempting to investigate these massive human rights violations, was hit by a car in the centre of Baku. While the driver who hit him took Oktay to the hospital, no medical assistance was provided to the human rights defender for a whole 17 hours. The result is that Oktay Gulaliev has remained in a coma to this day.
The total number of detainees and those who have died from torture is still unknown. The whole case has been classified as a State secret.
In light of these horrific acts, we strongly condemn the actions of the Azerbaijani government and law enforcement agencies who have carried out these serious human rights violations. We demand that the authorities of Azerbaijan:
- Conduct immediate investigations into the torture and subsequent deaths of detainees, as well as all other allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and ensure that perpetrators are held responsible for their acts and brought to justice;
- Ensure the rehabilitation, assistance, and access to redress mechanisms for victims and their families, including access to their loved ones who have been detained or, when tortured to death, to their remains;
- Disclose the whereabouts and numbers of detainees who have been arrested in relation to the Terter case as well as all other prisoners who have been detained for political reasons;
- End the practice of torture and ensure that systematic measures are taken to prevent and eradicate torture in Azerbaijan.
Here are the names of those who have died from torture at the hands of the Azerbaijani forces, as documented by the IPD:
1. Mehman Huseynov was arrested on May 7 and his body buried on May 16, 2017.
2. Sahavat Bunyadov was arrested on May 7 and his body buried on May 17, 2017.
3. Saleh Gafarov was arrested on May 4 and his body buried on May 14, 2017.
4. Elchin Quliyev was arrested on May 11 and his body buried on May 18, 2017.
5. Tamkin Nizamioglu was arrested on May 12 and his body buried on May 21, 2017.
6. Dayandur Azizli was arrested on May 12 and his body buried on July 20, 2017.
7. Suleyman Kazymov was arrested on May 4 and his body buried on May 7, 2017.
8. Elkhan Agazade was arrested on May 1 and his body buried on May 10, 2017.
9. Elchin Mirzaliyev was arrested on May 7 and his body buried on May 25, 2017.
10. Ruslan Odjaqverdiyev was arrested in the morning on May 16, 2017. His body was given to his family in the evening on May 16, 2017.
11. Adil Tehran Oglu Sabirli was beaten to death on May 5, 2017.
The OMCT works with over 200 member organisations which constitute its SOS-Torture Network, to end torture, fight impunity and protect human rights defenders worldwide. Together, we make up the largest global group actively standing up to torture. Helping local voices be heard, we support our vital partners in the field and provide direct assistance to victims. Our international secretariat is based in Geneva, with offices in Brussels and Tunis.
For more information, please contact
Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications
+41 79 539 41 06