Azerbaijani opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov, amid a crowd of supporters just after being released from prison. Aug 13, 2018. 

© 2018 Aziz Kərimov

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously found that Azerbaijan had failed to comply with the 2014 binding ruling that there was no basis for the detention of Ilgar Mammadov, a prominent political analyst and one of Azerbaijan’s few alternative political voices. It was the first-ever judgement under the relatively new infringement procedure, which authorizes the European Court to determine whether a country has refused to carry out the court’s final judgment. 

Azerbaijani authorities arrested Mammadov in February 2013, shortly after he announced plans to challenge President Ilham Aliyev in upcoming elections, and in a total mockery of justice, convicted him of inciting violence and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

In the decision published this week, the European Court found Azerbaijan failed to act in “good faith” and in accordance with the “conclusions and spirit” of the court’s 2014 decision, which found Mammadov’s 2013 detention was without “any reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense.” The court went further, saying the actual purpose of his pretrial detention was “to silence or punish” him for criticizing the government. 

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which supervises implementation of European Court judgements, has called for Mammadov’s immediate and unconditional release at least a dozen times as the only way to put an end to the ongoing violations and erase their consequences. But Mammadov has remained jailed, prompting the Committee of Ministers in 2017 to trigger infringement proceedings and referred the case back to the European Court. 

Meanwhile, Mammadov was conditionally released in August 2018, but his conviction still stands. 

Yet, the Grand Chamber decision is clear: there has been inadequate redress for Mammadov, even if only because his guilty verdict still stands. 

Once again, the ball is back with the Committee of Ministers that should continue to impress upon the Azerbaijani authorities that nothing less than Mammadov’s full exoneration will be seen as a “good faith” response by the authorities to the blatant miscarriage of justice suffered by Mammadov. Mammadov won’t get back the five years he spent in prison. But he can still get justice.