(New York) - Azerbaijan's Court of Appeal should promptly grant three teenagers accused and sentenced for murder in June 2007 a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said today, on the four year anniversary of their detention. The three all maintain that they were ill-treated during their initial detention, leading to coerced murder confessions.
"These three young men have consistently maintained that they were ill-treated and forced to confess," said Jane Buchanan, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These claims should be investigated immediately and rigorously now, just as they should have been four years ago."
Dmitri Pavlov, Maksim Genashilkin, and Ruslan Bessonov, aged 15, 15, and 16, respectively at the time of their detention, were detained in March 2005, and accused of participating in the murder of another teenager, Vusal Zeynalov, which they denied. They were refused prompt access to a lawyer, and their families were only informed of their sons' detentions at least eight hours later, in violation of international standards. The boys all reported ill-treatment, including severe beatings to the head, face, and legs, with fists and truncheons, as well as threats to their families, and claimed to have been denied food, water, and sleep. The boys then signed statements incriminating themselves and one another in the murder.
To date, there has been no meaningful investigation of the boys' allegations of torture. Largely on the basis of these confessions, the three were convicted of murder in June 2007 and each sentenced to 10 years in prison. The conviction was upheld in January 2008 by the Court of Appeal. In April 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeal had violated the boys' rights to a fair trial and ordered the case be re-examined. In July, the Court of Appeal again upheld the conviction and sentence. Most recently, on January 21, 2009, the Supreme Court called for the case to be re-examined yet again, noting that the Court of Appeal had not upheld provisions of the Supreme Court's April 2008 judgment and had committed procedural violations. The cases of Dmitri Pavlov, Maksim Genashilkin and Ruslan Bessonov are currently being reviewed in the Court of Appeal for the third time.
"Azerbaijan should end this treadmill of justice and once and for all ensure that these three young men receive a fair trial, in accordance with the country's international obligations," said Buchanan.