Center for National and International Studies



“Azerbaijani government’s tactics extend beyond mere arrests and imprisonments, as it also subjects its critics and opposition figures to torture and inhumane treatment in prisons.”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Activist Ilhamiz Guliyev‘s detention period has been prolonged by the Yasamal District Court. According to Rovshana Rahimova, Guliyev‘s lawyer, the court has extended his detention by 20 days. Rahimova informed Turan news agency about the court’s decision. She mentioned that the initial investigation concerning Guliyev has concluded, and the case is expected to proceed to court. However, Rahimova emphasized that there are no procedural justifications for extending Guliyev‘s detention. She stated, “The court’s decision lacks justification. We find it unfounded, and we intend to lodge an appeal.” Guliyev was arrested on December 4, 2023, and two days later, he was formally detained for four months on charges related to the alleged purchase of a significant quantity of narcotics. His defense attorneys argue that Guliyev‘s detention is linked to an interview he gave to “Abzas Media.” In the interview, Guliyev, identified as a former police officer, claimed that law enforcement authorities utilize counterfeit narcotics to fabricate criminal cases. Previously, Guliyev had served as an informal assistant to a police investigator.

The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) has issued a statement concerning the rejection of Ali Karimli as the organization’s chairman. The statement alleges that, currently, the Ministry of Justice, under direct orders from President Ilham Aliyev, is declining to acknowledge Ali Karimli as the chairman, citing a fabricated complaint. Released on April 3, the statement also highlights recent arrests and other forms of pressure targeting the APFP, aimed at crippling its operational capacity. The party emphasizes a history of continuous repression spanning the 30-year rule of the Aliyevs, stating, “Throughout the Aliyevs’ three decades in power, the APFP has faced repression.” Furthermore, the party reports that the number of their members detained in the recent political arrests has risen to 11 individuals.

The APFP, in its statement condemning the recent wave of repression against its members, highlighted the Azerbaijani government’s persistent political arrests over the past year. The statement notes the detention of numerous prominent politicians, public figures, and journalists, with APFP members also being targeted. In the latest crackdown, the number of APFP detainees has risen to 11. The party underscores its enduring struggle against repression, spanning over three decades, during which it has faced consistent harassment. Throughout the tenure of the Aliyevs, the APFP has encountered repression every single year. Notably, hundreds of its members have been subjected to politically motivated arrests, enduring lengthy periods of detention. The APFP asserts that these arrests and harassment are aimed at stifling its activities. Despite President Ilham Aliyev‘s explicit goal of eradicating the APFP, the party’s leadership and members’ unwavering commitment to democracy have thwarted his efforts.

Among the latest arrested APFP members is Sahib Mammadzade, the head of the Dashkasan district branch of the AXCP, who was unlawfully detained on March 18, 2024. During his arrest within the district area, both he and his sister, Tajire, were subjected to physical violence. Subsequently, Sahib Mammadzade was charged with narcotics-related offenses. Prior to this, AXCP members Elnur Hasan and Elbay Karimov faced similar charges. Furthermore, Elxan Aliyev, an employee of the AXCP’s Organization Department, was arrested for facilitating a legal transaction in a purchase-sale operation to earn commission fees. Despite no illegal activity and no actual harm, Elxan Aliyev was charged with dishonesty, and the court upheld the false accusation, sentencing him to 5 years of imprisonment. This decision severely impacts Elxan Aliyev, who has three young children at home.

The statement also highlights that the Azerbaijani government’s tactics extend beyond mere arrests and imprisonments, as it also subjects critics and opposition figures to torture and inhumane treatment in prisons. Recent cases involve political prisoners of the AXCP, Niyameddin Ahmadov and Shahin Haji, who have endured harsh treatment and torture. Ahmadov went on a hunger strike for over 10 days to protest the injustices he faced, ending it only after some of his demands were met. Haji, on the other hand, was arbitrarily placed in solitary confinement twice for extended periods initially, and later sentenced to three months of strict regime imprisonment without valid justification.

The Khatai District Court in Baku convened on April 2 to deliberate on the possibility of releasing journalist Hafiz Babali on bail, presided over by Judge Sulhana Haciyeva. Babali’s lawyer, Rasul Jafarov, argued for bail, contending that there are no substantial grounds, either in terms of evidence or procedure, to justify his continued detention. The investigation’s rationale for Babali’s detention relies on subjective assumptions such as the potential risk of “flight” and “interference with the investigation.” However, it’s important to note that Babali had already been prohibited from leaving the country prior to the initiation of the criminal case. Conversely, Babali has a fixed place of residence, and his house arrest is supervised by officials from the Probation Service. Babali raised objections against Judge Haciyeva, alleging bias due to her prior decision to order his arrest and refusal of previous bail requests. However, the judge deemed the objection insufficient and left it pending. Furthermore, the judge did not secure the provision of bail, prompting lawyer Jafarov to announce the intention to file an appeal regarding this matter.

Aykhan Israfilov, a member of the Trade Union “Workers’ Table,” has been incarcerated for three years. Israfilov was apprehended for advocating the rights of couriers, a cause shared by his fellow detained colleagues. Human rights advocates and activists contend that his detention is politically motivated, as he was arrested and faced fabricated criminal charges.

Dilara Asgarova, the mother of Farid Asgarov, an Azerbaijani citizen detained in Iran, has submitted an appeal to the Ministry of Justice. She expressed, “Farid was imprisoned because of his Azerbaijani identity, not because he is my son.” In her appeal, she addressed the Penitentiary Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan, acknowledging receipt of letters following her plea to the President. However, she noted the difficulty in obtaining the necessary documents for extradition through requests made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ASAN Service. Despite repeated inquiries to ASAN Service about Farid’s whereabouts, they simply confirm his detention in Iran and demand an authorization letter. Ms. Asgarova highlighted the absurdity of this demand and emphasized that she had already sent a copy of the judgment to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the consulate. She questioned why Farid’s passport registration couldn’t suffice for his extradition and urged the authorities to end the bureaucratic hurdles. Despite visiting the office in December, the documents required for Farid Asgarov’s extradition have not been obtained. Ms. Asgarova reiterated that Farid’s imprisonment stemmed from his Azerbaijani nationality, not his relation to her. She pleaded with officials to expedite the request process and obtain the necessary documents. She expressed frustration that her repeated communications received the same generic responses, with officials requesting documents such as proof of residence without addressing her concerns.

The US State Department issued a statement regarding the recent phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. The Secretary highlighted the significance of the bilateral relationship between the US and Azerbaijan, emphasizing collaborative efforts in energy and climate initiatives. Both parties discussed the imperative of advancing a peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, aiming to foster economic prosperity across the region. Secretary Blinken stressed the need to avoid escalating tensions at the border, cautioning against any aggressive actions or rhetoric that could impede the peace process. Furthermore, he reiterated the importance of Azerbaijan upholding its international commitments regarding human rights and freedoms, calling for the release of individuals unjustly detained.

April 5, 2024