Center for National and International Studies



“As long as the regime’s “caviar diplomacy” was in full swing, opening the doors of important European organizations wide for Ilham Aliyev, he was content with Europe and did not make anti-European statements…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

TaJira Mammadzade, the sister of political prisoner Sahib Mammadzade, has accused the forensic examination of providing a false report regarding her brother’s torture. She elaborated, stating: “My brother, who served as the chairman of the AXCP Dashkasan district branch, Sahib Mammadzade, was allegedly discovered to have drugs in his bloodstream and subsequently detained at the Kurdekhani detention center while he was in Baku. During my visit to Baku, I went to see Sahib at the Kurdekhani detention center, where I found him doing fine. Why was my brother taken to Baku? Allegedly because the examination indicated the presence of drugs in the blood of a non-smoker. How could this be possible? It is an outrageous accusation to frame a non-smoker with drug charges. During our meeting at Kurdekhani, Sahib also mentioned that ‘the areas where I was tortured still ache, yet no examination or treatment has been provided.’ I urge my brother to undergo a medical examination. I personally witnessed the lingering traces of torture on his legs. Despite this evidence, the expert issued a false report claiming no signs of torture. What does this indicate? It suggests that the expert may have been influenced or compromised.”

Human rights advocate Rufat Safarov has alerted to the onset of a fresh wave of intimidation from the authorities. Taking to social media, Safarov addressed the issue directly: “Do past encounters and my track record provide grounds for you to resort to threatening language towards me? If so, when and where was this basis established?” Asserting his commitment to conducting his work within the boundaries of law, rights, ethics, and civility, Safarov emphasized his unwavering stance. “You are adults; it’s disgraceful. Cease the intimidation and coercion through intermediaries,” Safarov urged. Furthermore, he expressed his lack of fear towards imprisonment or similar consequences, stating, “Believe in my sincerity; in this chaotic environment where human rights hold no value, and freedom is a greater curse than imprisonment.”

The sister of political prisoner Shahin Verdiyev, Nigar Karimova, has shared very concerning information about her brother. She wrote: “For months, Gasim Aliyev, the head of the Ganja No. 2 Investigative Detention Center, has left my 66-year-old mother, who has one kidney removed and suffers from severe hypertension, stranded on the prison paths. Gasim Aliyev has been deceiving my mother for months, promising to send my brother, political prisoner Shahin Verdiyev, who was falsely accused and imprisoned on drug charges, to the Penitentiary Service’s Medical Institution in Baku, but he never sent him. My brother is a former Ganja prisoner. During his first imprisonment, he lost all his health due to the terrible tortures inflicted by the Ganja police. At that time, a policeman named Serkhan in Ganja punched and kicked my brother in the head, causing swelling. In 2019, during his first imprisonment, he suffered a stroke in the courtroom. My brother was falsely accused and imprisoned again on March 9, 2023. He was taken to the Ganja police at night, where they punched and kicked the swellings on his head again. He had just been released and was receiving treatment at the psychiatric dispensary in Ganja. During his first imprisonment, my brother’s legs and arms were tied from behind, and he was beaten with a baton under his feet until he fainted. This torture damaged his internal organs. Shahin lost consciousness due to the pain in his kidneys and nerves caused by this torture. Because of this pain, he attempted suicide in the Ganja detention center in winter. My brother had another stroke, and his facial features became distorted. Despite all this, Gasim Aliyev does not transfer my brother to the Penitentiary’s Medical Institution. We are poor, and our whole family has to survive and pay rent with my sick mother’s pension. Prisoners who are not sick pay money and bribes to spend months in the Medical Institution. My brother’s life is in danger. We could lose him at any moment. Gasim Aliyev and the Ministry of Justice are responsible for my brother’s life.”

It is reported that Adalat Ismayilov, a veteran of the Second Karabakh War, born in 1996, has died after setting himself on fire. The Medical Territorial Units Management Association (TABIB) informed Meydan TV that Adalat Ismayilov, who was evacuated to the Burn Center operating under the Narimanov Medical Center on June 6, was diagnosed with second and third-degree thermal burns covering 80-85% of his body surface, burns of the upper respiratory tract, and severe burn shock. “Despite all resuscitation measures and the extensive efforts of doctors, the citizen passed away at around 03:45 on June 7,” the association’s statement said.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) released information on June 6 stating that Adalat Ismayilov was detained by the State Traffic Police on April 26 in the village of Gushchu, Dashkasan district, for endangering people’s lives while driving a VAZ 2106 car belonging to Hasanov. The car was driven by Adalat Ismayilov without a driving license and power of attorney. As a result, Adalat Ismayilov was informed about the relevant regulations and invited to comply with the discipline. However, he continued his illegal actions, stating that he would drive the car as he wished and showed disobedience to the police officers, thus grossly violating public order. Due to elements of minor hooliganism in his actions, an administrative penalty of 60 manats was imposed on Adalat Ismayilov by a court decision. His appeals regarding the groundlessness of his administrative liability were investigated accordingly and found to be unsubstantiated, so the decision remained in force. Despite numerous explanatory conversations with Adalat Ismayilov, measures were repeatedly taken against him for committing acts of hooliganism in a drunken state with vehicles that did not belong to him, both in Dashkasan district, where he was registered, and in Ganja city, where he lived.

Political immigrant living in Europe Abid Gafarov said that at the “Preparation for COP29” conference held in Bonn, brochures were distributed that listed veterans who committed suicide by self-immolation, 300 political prisoners, and 27 journalists. Speeches were made, and slogans were chanted. A special report will also be prepared and presented, Gafarov added.

Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP) Ali Karimli said that the recent arrests and repression are related to the upcoming parliamentary elections. “While not directly, it is indirectly connected. Public and political activists in the country are periodically framed and imprisoned to ensure that fear and intimidation persist in society, preventing the emergence of a fair and free election environment.”

During a meeting on June 6 with a delegation from TURKPA (Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States), Ilham Aliyev leveled harsh criticisms against the West, declaring, “We do not align with Europe.” He highlighted Europe’s history of colonialism, stating, “Their past is marked by colonialism.” Aliyev: “Their past is about inflicting suffering on peoples, illegal occupation. Today, colonial policy continues in the European Union. But does anyone object to them? No. That’s why Hungary is at the forefront of the struggle, and I have repeatedly told my friend Viktor Orban that it is harder for you. We are situated here, we are not Europe, and we do not want to join the European family. Even if we wanted to, no one would let us in.”

Jamil Hasanli, Chairperson of the National Council of the Democratic Forces (Milli Shura), criticized the president for hypocrisy, highlighting Aliyev‘s close ties with Russia despite its colonial past. Hasanli: “It’s strange because the country led by Ilham Aliyev was a colony of Russia for 200 years. In the early 19th century, Russia, by force and bloodshed, occupied Azerbaijan, established a regime of occupation, subjected the local population to various forms of exploitation and discrimination to assimilate them, and suppressed the nation’s desire for freedom in April 1920 and January 1990. Russia effectively kept Karabakh under occupation for 30 years. Yet, Ilham Aliyev speaks of colonialism in Europe’s past and present.

Hasanli, also added that if Europe has a colonial past then perhaps the Azerbaijani ruling elite should refrain from buying properties in Europe: “When the ruling family and elite secretly and illicitly transferred all the money and wealth they took out of the country to European countries, were they unaware that Europe’s past was filled with blood, that its past was colonialism, and that its past involved inflicting suffering on peoples. They have only now realized all this. Wherever you look for corruption in Europe, the Aliyevs, the Azerbaijani ruling elite, are involved. If Europe’s past is filled with blood, if its past is colonialism, and if it is still engaged in colonialism today, and if its past involves inflicting suffering on peoples, then why have you bought up European capitals, such as London, neighborhood by neighborhood, with the corrupt money taken out of Azerbaijan? Go and buy these stolen properties in Senegal, Kinshasa, Nigeria, Djibouti—places that were victims of colonialism. They stash what they plunder from this country in Europe, purchasing billion-dollar properties in European capitals, but they tell the people that Europe’s history is filled with blood and suffering.

Hasanlia also added that “almost 70% Azerbaijan’s foreign trade turnover is with those colonial countries, and the cars, clothes of government and parliament members are 100% made in the West. The stolen properties and secret bank accounts are all in the West, in Europe. And now, suddenly, Ilham Aliyev remembers that ‘we are not Europe.'”

Ali Karimli, Chairperson of the AXCP, also responded to the president’s remarks against the West, suggesting that President Aliyev refrained from making anti-European comments when EU countries were susceptible to bribery. Karimli: “As long as the regime’s “caviar diplomacy” was in full swing, opening the doors of important European organizations wide for Ilham Aliyev, he was content with Europe and did not make anti-European statements. In those days, when European politicians turned a blind eye to issues like political prisoners and massive electoral fraud in Azerbaijan in exchange for millions of euros in bribes, there were no museums, castles, parks, or centers in Europe that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation had not renovated. Back then, not only European fashion and brands but also music, sports competitions, and political leaders were held in high esteem. Azerbaijan-Europe relations began to deteriorate when Europeans found the strength and political will to expose the “caviar diplomacy” of the Azerbaijani government. They exposed and punished the European politicians who took bribes from the Azerbaijani authorities and sold out European values and principles.  First, the exposure of “caviar diplomacy,” and then the Russia-Ukraine war, led to a more sensitive approach to human rights and freedoms within European institutions.”

June 11, 2024