09/12/2010 – Members of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan are deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani government’s failure to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement in the case of imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev. These international organisations welcome the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ recent decision in Fatullayev’s case and call on the Azerbaijani government to mark International Human Rights Day by immediately and unconditionally releasing Fatullayev from prison.
From 30 November to 2 December, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers conducted a special human rights meeting during which it debated the Azerbaijani government’s execution of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in the case of Fatullayev v. Azerbaijan. Following the meeting, on 6 December, the Committee of Ministers released a decision noting its concern over Fatullayev’s continued imprisonment despite the European Court’s ruling ordering his immediate release. The Committee called on the Azerbaijani government to “explore all possible means of ending the applicant’s detention”.
“As a Council of Europe Member State, Azerbaijan is obligated to comply with judgments of the European Court and with decisions of the Committee of Ministers. In failing to release Fatullayev from prison, Azerbaijan is in breach of its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights”, commented Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
“We were encouraged by the strong response of many delegations to the Azerbaijani government’s non-compliance in Eynulla Fatullayev’s case. The Committee of Ministers’ decision in this case sends a clear signal to the Azerbaijani government that its peers in the Council of Europe will hold it responsible for its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights”, said Virginie Jouan, Executive Director of Press Freedom and Media Development of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
“The decision adopted by the Committee of Ministers is crucial for journalists and free speech supporters in Azerbaijan who are constantly confronted by a cycle of impunity and violence. They look at the Council of Europe for guidance and the Council did not let them down. It’s now time for the Azerbaijani authorities to let Eynulla Fatullayev go”, stated Lucie Morillon, Head of the New Media Desk of Reporters Without Borders.
During the Committee of Ministers meeting, a delegation of members of the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan undertook a joint advocacy mission to Strasbourg to raise their concerns regarding the Azerbaijani authorities’ systematic failure to comply with the European Court’s decision in Fatullayev’s case. The participating organisations included ARTICLE 19, the Human Rights House Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
Fatullayev has been imprisoned since April 2007 on charges related to his journalistic activities. On 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his imprisonment constituted a violation of his freedom of expression and right to a fair trial. The European Court ordered the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Fatullayev; however, the authorities instead proceeded with new politically motivated charges against Fatullayev of drug possession, for which he was convicted on 6 July. On 4 October, the 22 April ruling became final when the European Court’s Grand Chamber rejected the Azerbaijani government’s petition to hear the case.
The Committee of Ministers will next consider Fatullayev’s case at its human rights meeting in March 2011.
Photograph (c) (c) Francois Schnell.