Three years ago today, authorities arrested Ilgar Mammadov, a prominent political analyst and one of Azerbaijan’s few alternative political voices. The anniversary of his arrest marks another grim milestone in Azerbaijan’s relentless crackdown on critics.
On February 4, 2013, authorities arrested Mammadov on charges stemming from anti-government riots in Ismayilli, 200 kilometers from Baku, in January 2013. He was accused of inciting violence and sentenced to seven years in prison after a politically-motivated trial that violated due process and other fair trial protections. I have known Ilgar for more than a decade and he is one of the most law-abiding, nonviolent people I have ever met. Shortly before his arrest, Ilgar announced plans to challenge President Ilham Aliyev in the October 2013 vote, representing the opposition group REAL (Republican Alternative), which he chairs.
In May 2014, the European Court of Human Rights concluded, in a strongly worded judgment, that the actual purpose of Mammadov’s detention “was to silence or punish [him] for criticizing the Government.” Citing that ruling, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has called repeatedly for Mammadov’s release. Yet Ilgar remains in jail.
Mammadov is one of the dozens of government critics, human rights defenders, and journalists whom Azerbaijani authorities have arrested and convicted in a sweeping crackdown.
The failure to implement the European Court judgement, and “arbitrary application of the law in Azerbaijan […] to silence critical voices” has triggered a rare move by the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, to launch an official inquiry into Azerbaijan’s implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Council of Europe, together with Azerbaijan’s other bilateral and multilateral partners, should make sure that Azerbaijan ends this mockery of justice without further delay. Three years is three years too long to wait for justice.