Three years ago today, Europe’s top human rights court delivered an exceptionally strong-worded judgment on Azerbaijan’s detention of Ilgar Mammadov, a prominent political analyst and one of the country’s few alternative political voices. The European Court of Human Rights found his detention illegal, saying that the actual purpose “was to silence or punish [him] for criticizing the Government.”
Mammadov has been in jail since February 2013, when authorities arrested him on charges stemming from anti-government riots in Ismayilli, 200 kilometers from Baku. He was accused of inciting violence and sentenced to seven years in prison after a politically motivated trial that violated fair trial standards.
Yet, despite the judgment by the European Court, and at least 10 resolutions by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe urging his immediate release, Mammadov still languishes in a prison cell, at the mercy of a vindictive government.
The Azerbaijani government’s blatant refusal to implement the European Court judgment even compelled Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland to launch a rare official inquiry into Azerbaijan’s implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
What is not exceptional is Mammadov’s case itself. He is one of the dozens of government critics, human rights defenders, and journalists whom the Azerbaijani authorities have arrested and convicted in a sweeping crackdown in past several years. Among those in jail are Mehman Huseynov, one of the country’s most popular journalists, who exposed high-level government corruption, and Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov, youth activists serving 10 years after spraying graffiti on a statue of the former president.
Three years have passed since the European Court’s binding ruling. Azerbaijan’s partners should be united in their calls for Azerbaijan to end this mockery of justice. They should also implement concrete consequences for Azerbaijan’s punishment of Mammadov for political activism. Three years is three years too long to wait for justice.