Dear Prosecutor General Garalov,

We are writing to express our profound concern about the detention and abuse in custody of a leading human rights activist Emin Huseynov, and urge you to ensure a prompt and thorough investigation, capable of leading to the prosecution of the responsible officials.

Emin Huseynov is chairman of the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), a media watchdog organization. On June 14 he was detained while carrying out his work as a journalist. He was beaten in custody before he was released and subsequently hospitalized.

Huseynov was detained together with two of his colleagues while observing a celebration of the Che Guevara Fan Club at a local café in Baku. Without any warning or explanation, at around 12:30 p.m. 30 to 40 policemen raided the café and rounded up some 20-25 people participating in the event. Huseynov told Human Rights Watch that a police officer punched him in the head as they pushed him into a police car.

Huseynov and the others were taken to Baku’s Nasimi District Police Station No. 22. Huseynov objected to police fingerprinting and filming the detainees, and made calls from his cell phone to various journalists to report on what was happening. Huseynov was taken into the office of the police station’s deputy chief. Six officers, three in plainclothes, and all carrying guns, were in the room. According to Huseynov, the police then began to shout threats and profanities at him and hit him on the back of the neck with a gun. Huseynov told Human Rights Watch:

[...] I was singled out and taken into the deputy chief’s room. [...] A man in a plainclothes took out his gun, hitting it on a table in front of me, cursing me and threatening to destroy me. He then hit me with a gun on the back of my neck and with a fist on my back. I felt dizzy and asked for an ambulance, but police refused to call one.

Around 4 p.m. a group of local NGOs and representatives of diplomatic missions gathered in front of the police station. Huseynov was released shortly afterwards, but lost consciousness after he left the police station and was hospitalized with a head trauma and high blood pressure. He was taken to the Centralized Emergency Medical Assistance Hospital, where he was diagnosed with concussion and kept in intensive care for 3 days.

Huseynov told Human Rights Watch that when the hospital employees learned how he had sustained his injury, they changed his diagnosis from a concussion and head trauma to “stress syndrome”, which they said was causing Huseynov’s high blood pressure. Huseynov said that although he was transferred from intensive care to a regular ward on June 17, he cannot walk or eat normally because of dizziness and nausea.

On June 15 an investigator from the Nasimi District Police Department visited Huseynov to take a statement from him. A forensic medical examination was also conducted on June 16. However, the same day, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted a Nasimi District Police Department official as saying that Huseynov’s injuries were self-inflicted. Such a statement raises serious concern that the authorities in charge of the investigation are not acting independently but have pre-determined the outcome.

We urge you to take the case under your personal supervision and ensure that the investigation is prompt, thorough and capable to lead to the accountability of abusive security officials. Such an investigation should look into the legality of Huseynov’s detention as well as alleged physical and verbal abuse against Huseynov and others. We also ask that the police officials present in the room when Huseynov was hit be suspended from active duty, pending the outcome of the investigation. This would send an important signal that any resort to physical abuse against those in custody will not be tolerated.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to hearing about the findings of the investigation.

Sincerely,

Holly Cartner
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

Cc:
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Internal Affairs
Ambassador Yashar Aliyev