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Urgent Interventions

Death in detention of Mr. Novruzali Mammadov

New information
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Death in detention


August 18, 2009

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.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources, including the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan (HRCA), about the death in detention of Mr. Novruzali Mammadov, 68-year-old, a fervent defender of the cultural rights of the Talysh people, an ethnic minority living in the south of Azerbaijan, Head of the Talysh Cultural Center, Editor-in-chief of the Tolishi Sado (Voice of the Talysh) newspaper, and Department Head of the Linguistics Institute at the Academy of Sciences.

According to the information received, on August 17, 2009, Mr. Novruzali Mammadov passed away. Mr. Mammadov's health had deteriorated for the last few months and in June 2009 his family reported that he was suffering from, among others, a cataract, a prostate tumour, and thyroid problems.

On July 28, Mr. Mammadov was transferred from the Strict Regime Colony N° 15 to the Neurology Department of the Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Services Central Hospital. Yet, his health continued to deteriorate. Sanitary conditions would have been very bad and Mr. Mammadov would not have been given any treatment or pain relief by hospital staff, as they said they need to carry out tests before treating him. Mr. Mammedov complained to representatives of the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan about his conditions and the lack of medical treatment.

In early August, Ms. Veronika Kotek, Council of Europe’s Special Representative in Azerbaijan, had visited Mr. Novruzali Mammadov in the hospital. She had a conversation with the hospital administration and physicians, who said that Mr. Mammadov’s health condition was of medium severity, and the hospital’s administration rejected Ms. Kotek’s proposal to invite European doctors to examine Mr. Mammadov.

The Observatory recalls that on December 26, 2008, the Baku Appeal Court confirmed the sentence of Mr. Novruzali Mammadov to ten years in prison[1] for “high treason” and “inciting national, racial, and religious hatred” (see background information).

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about Mr. Mammadov’s death in detention, all the more as it had called in the past that Mr. Mammadov receive immediate and adequate medical care in specialised medical facilities, and urges the authorities of Azerbaijan to order a thorough and impartial investigation into his death in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.

The Observatory further calls upon the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CoE) to act in accordance with OP 4 of the CoE Declaration on Human Rights Defenders[2], and to urge the Republic of Azerbaijan to comply with its duties under the terms of the above-mentioned Declaration and to abide by the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Observatory also urges the European Commission Delegation as well as European Union (EU) Member-States embassies in Azerbaijan to urge the authorities of Azerbaijan to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, and to report on all breaches of human rights standards.

Background information:

On February 2, 2007, Mr. Novruzali Mammadov was called to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he was kept for several days without explanations, underwent beating and was interrogated because he took part in a scientific conference in Iran in 2004. After a short release, he was detained at the Investigation Isolation Centre of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he allegedly underwent physical and psychological pressure for 15 days with the aim to force him to confess the acts of “espionage” for Iran.

On February 17, 2007, he was accused of high treason for espionage under Article 274 of the Criminal Code. He has been arbitrarily detained since then. On June 24, 2008, the Grave Crime Court sentenced him to ten years in prison. The Court argued that Mr. Mammadov had collected “information necessary for the establishment of an administrative autonomy in the territories of Azerbaijan compactly populated by Talysh people”, and had spread a negative image of Azerbaijan abroad through appeals submitted to international organisations relating to “violations of the human rights of the Talysh people”.

During the trial, Mr. Mammadov pleaded not guilty, and informed the members of the Court of the physical and psychological torture he had been subjected to while in detention (including beating, food and water deprivation, night interrogation and threats to his family). However, these allegations of torture were all rejected by the Court. The verdict was reportedly announced in an empty room in the absence of Mr. Mammadov’s attorney, after a closed trial. It is believed that he was falsely accused and sentenced because of his activity for the protection of the rights of the Talysh ethnic minority.

The sentencing was indeed issued without proofs, and is based exclusively on the self-confessions of a journalist of Tolishi Sedo, Mr. Elman Quliyev, who was also arrested and sentenced for six years in prison. The Observatory fears that these confessions were obtained through torture and ill-treatment.

On January 14, 2009, Mr. Novruzali Mammedov was transferred from the Pre-Trial Detention Centre No 1 of Bailov to the Strict Regime Colony No 15, subsequent to the confirmation in appeal of his sentence to ten years in prison for “high treason” and “inciting national, racial, and religious hatred”. He was then immediately placed in a punishment cell for 15 days for “breach of order”, being deprived of bed and warm clothes.

On May 27, 2009, the cassation complaint of Mr. Novruzali Mammadov against the December 26, 2008 decision of the Baku Appeal Chamber was rejected by the Supreme Court under the Chairmanship of Judge Taptig Mahmudov.

Following the May 27 hearing, Mr. Mammadov’s lawyer expressed his dissatisfaction with the verdict, alleging the unfairness of the trial, the groundlessness of its closed nature, as well as the invalidity of the evidence against his client, based on the statement of a sole person and reportedly obtained under torture and ill-treatment (see background information). Mr. Mammadov’s lawyer appealed this ruling to the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR).

Further, on June 10, 2009, the Supreme Court, chaired by Judge Gahraman Allahverdiyev, rejected another complaint filed by Mr. Mammadov’s lawyer on the destruction by the National Security Ministry of Mr. Mammadov’s unpublished scientific works on Talysh language and linguistics that were on his computer hard drive (about 4,000 pages), following the seizure without mandate of his computer on February 16, 2007. His lawyer also intends to appeal such ruling before the ECtHR.

On June 22, 2009, Mr. Novruzali Mammadov's wife, Ms. Maryam Mammadova and his son Mr. Emil Mammadov visited him in high security colony No 15. They reported that his health had seriously deteriorated and that he had to undergo three major chirurgical interventions: cataract removal, intervention on thyroid gland and on prostate. They further reported that he suffered from high blood pressure and had to take daily medicine.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to:

  1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;
  2. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into Mr. Novruzali Mammadov’s death in detention in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;
  3. Guarantee that adequate reparation is provided to Mr. Novruzali Mammadov’s relatives;
  4. Put an end to the harassment against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;
  5. 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 Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;
  6. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.


  • Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 492 06 25, +994 412 92 28 68, E-mail:,,
  • Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 492 06 82, +994 12 492 26 63, E-mail:
  • Minister of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov, Fax: + 994 12 492 45 90
  • Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Prospekt Stroitelej, 1 Baku Azerbaijan, e-mail:, Tel (99412) 430 01 16, Fax + 99412 430 09 81
  • Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan, Rue de Lausanne 67, CH-1202, Genève, Suisse, E-mail:, fax: +4122 901 18 44
  • Azerbaijani Embassy in Brussels, Avenue Moliere, 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 345 26 60, Fax: +32 2 345 91 85

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.

Geneva-Paris, August 18, 2009

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact 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 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] The hearing in appeal took place on December 24, 2008, and the sentence was issued on December 26.

[2] See Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for enhanced protection of human rights defenders, adopted on February 6, 2008.

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