Human rights activist, pardoned on 17 March 2016
ROLE: Head of the “Human Rights Club”, human rights campaigner and activist.
FOCUS: Making human rights violations in Azerbaijan visible to the broader public. Jafarov has been involved in several high-profile human rights campaigns, such as ‘Sing for Democracy’ which he coordinated, around the Eurovision song contest in Baku in May 2012. The success of the campaign was such that it was continued under the ‘Art for Democracy’ initiative, which mobilises artists as part of the human rights community.
Prior to his detention, Jafarov had been planning a campaign called “Sports for Rights” ahead of the Baku European Games which will take place in June 2015. He was also working jointly with other human rights defenders including Leyla Yunus, who was also arrested, to compile a comprehensive list of political prisoners currently held in Azerbaijan. Both of them have now been added to the list.
ARRESTED: August 2, 2014
SENTENCED: On 16 April 2015, Rasul Jafarov was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. He was also prohibited from holding any office for 3 years. He was convicted under Articles 192 (illegal business), 213 (tax evasion) and 308 (abuse of power) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan.
CURRENT STATUS: Rasul was released on 17 March 2016, under a Presidential decree pardoning 148 people, including 15 political prisoners.
CASE DETAILS: The charges against Jafarov have their root in the Human Rights Club’s lack of registration with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice. Human Rights Club had repeatedly attempted to register officially as an NGO, but had failed due to “unlawful and unjustified denial of state registration.”
While waiting for the organisation’s registration to be officially confirmed, Jafarov received grant funds as a registered individual taxpayer. At the time, legislation did not forbid activity on the part of unregistered NGOs.
The preliminary hearing against Jafarov took place on 15 January, where individuals recognised by the investigative body as “victims” declared they had no complaints against the accused, and requested that he be released.
A second hearing was held on 24 February, attended by “civil society representatives, international observers, and representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands embassies.” Several independent witnesses were questioned, again all of whom had been identified as “victims” by the investigative body. As with the preparatory hearing, they all certified the absence of material damage from Jafarov, and asked for their status as “victims” to be removed.
During a hearing on 5 March, several witnesses – including other human rights defenders and journalists – testified in Jafarov’s favour.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: One of Azerbaijan’s most noted human rights defenders, Jafarov is well known for his human rights campaign “Sing for Democracy”, held in the aftermath of the Eurovision song contest in Baku in May 2012. Jafarov used the international event as a platform to expose human rights violations in Azerbaijan to a mass audience. Jafarov has advocated for human rights – in particular the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan – at a number of international events, including at the United Nations and Council of Europe. He had also encouraged the appointment of a special rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan at the Council of Europe.
In 2014, Jafarov was included among the recipients of the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award, presented by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) for political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Though this award is usually offered to an individual, NHC chose to dedicate it to all the political prisoners in Azerbaijan, commenting that there were unfortunately “too numerous to all be mentioned.”
Compiled by ARTICLE 19 from a variety of sources. Current as of 08/06/2016