STATEMENT - THE OBSERVATORY
Paris-Geneva, March 30, 2022 - For the past two years, human rights lawyer and journalist Elchin Mammad has remained arbitrarily detained under trumped-up charges. Since then, his health condition has kept deteriorating, putting his life at risk in the Covid-19 context. On the second anniversary of his detention, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) urges the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him.
Today, March 30, 2022, marks two years since Mr. Elchin Mammad was arbitrarily arrested by police officers at his home in the city of Sumgait, following the publication online of report criticising the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Elchin Mammad is a human rights lawyer, President of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), an NGO providing free legal assistance to low-income families and non-profits, as well as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine, which publishes articles on human rights concerns in the country.
The Observatory fears for the health of Elchin Mammad which has drastically deteriorated during his detention these past two years due to the lack of adequate medical care. Mr. Mammad, suffers from Hepatitis C, has developed kidney issues, has experienced swollen legs and continues to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19 in view of the overcrowding and poor detention conditions in Azerbaijani prisons.
On October 14, 2020, the Sumgait City Court sentenced Elchin Mammad to four years in prison on fabricated charges of “theft causing significant damage” and “illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories” (Articles 177.2.4 and 228.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan). The police claimed to have found stolen jewellery and ammunition at his office.
The multiple appeals that have been filed during the past two years have all been rejected by the courts. On February 19, 2021 the Sumgayit Court of Appeal upheld Mr. Mammad’s sentence concluding that his right to a fair trial was respected. His lawyer appealed the decision. However, on July 7, 2021, the day of his appeal hearing, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld Elchin Mammad’s prison sentence. Attempts to commute Elchin Mammad’s sentence remained in vain as well. On December 9, 2021, the Court of Appeal of Baku rejected the appeal filed by Elchin Mammad challenging the October 9, 2021 decision of the Surakhani District Court to deny Mr. Mammad the replacement of his remaining prison term with either a suspended prison sentence or non-custodial alternatives. His lawyers announced they will submit his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
On November 24, 2021, Mr. Elchin Mammad was transferred from prison No. 14 of the Penitenriary Service of the Ministry of Justice to pre-trial detention centre No. 1 in Kurdakhani where he had no access to a bed for some days due to severe overcrowding. The reasons for this transfer remain unknown.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Elchin Mammad, which appears to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory reiterates its call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release Elchin Mammad immediately and unconditionally and to guarantee in all circumstances his physical integrity and psychological well-being.
The Observatory further urges the authorities to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.