Crushing Dissent

Repression, Violence and Azerbaijan's Elections

[1] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976. Azerbaijan ratified the ICCPR in 1992.

[2] European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), (ETS No. 5), 213 U.N.T.S. 222, entered into force September 3, 1953. Azerbaijan ratified the ECHR in 2002.

[3] ICCPR Article 9 and ECHR Article 5.

[4] ICCPR Article 7 and ECHR Article 3.

[5] ICCPR Article 14 and ECHR Article 5.

[6] ICCPR Article 21 and ECHR Article 11.

[7] ICCPR Article 19 and ECHR Article 10.

[8] ICCPR Article 25.

[9] Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimensions of the CSCE, Copenhagen, June 29, 1990 [online], http://www.osce.org/docs/english/1990-1999/hd/cope90e.htm (retrieved January 6, 2004).

[10] The Council of Europe has expressed concern about the lack of impartiality in the nomination of judges. See, "Honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan, PACE Resolution 1305 (2002) [online], www.assembly.coe.int/documents/adoptedtext/ta02?ERES1305.htm (retrieved January 6, 2004). For more analysis of the judiciary's lack of independence, see, Freedom House, "Nations in Transit 2002," Azerbaijan, Rule of Law, June 2003 [online],  http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/nattransit.htm (retrieved January 6, 2004); and  Human Rights Watch, "Azerbaijan: Impunity for Torture," A Human Rights Watch Report, August 1999, Vol. 11, No. 9 (D), section "Lack of Judicial Redress."

[11] Caspian Revenue Watch, Caspian Oil Windfalls: Who Will Benefit  (New York: Open Society Institute, 2003), pp. 98-99 (citing Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1305 (2002)(1)).

[12] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, October 12, 2003.

[13] International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Summary Description of the Division of Powers between Municipalities and State Local Executive Authorities, November 2002.

[14] In 2002 the Parliamentary Assembly expressed regret at the lack of progress in "the development of local self-government in Azerbaijan." It noted that "[t]he executive in Azerbaijan still exercises a predominant role." It expresses deep concern over the undue interference of the executive in the functioning of institutions. See Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1305.

[15] A 2001 household survey carried out by the Azerbaijani government found 49 percent of the population living in poverty, including 17 percent who were living in extreme poverty. The poverty line is defined by the Azerbaijani government based on a daily minimum calorie requirement, adjusted for age and gender. Extreme poverty is defined as having household expenditures less than half of the household-specific poverty line. Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan Republic State Programme on Poverty Reduction and Economic Development, Appendix 3: Poverty Measurement Methodology, (2001) [online], http://economy.gov.az/PRSP/Reports.htm (retrieved January 6, 2004).

[16] Statistics from 1998 indicate that the state sector accounted for nearly half the jobs in Azerbaijan. See Joint ECE Eurostat-ILO Seminar on Measurement of the Quality of Employment, CES/SEM.41/24, March 1, 2000 [online], http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/ces/sem.41/24.s.e.pdf (retrieved January 6, 2004).

[17] The Azerbaijani government announced Heidar Aliev's death on December 12, 2003.

[18] The human rights abuses committed during the pre-election period were detailed in a twenty-page briefing paper released by Human Rights Watch on the eve of the elections, Azerbaijan Presidential Elections 2003: A Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, October 13, 2003 [online],  http://hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/azerbaijan/index.htm (retrieved December 1, 2003). The section of the present report summarizes the findings of that briefing paper.

[19]The Venice Commission provides assistance to states in adopting constitutions that conform to Europe's standards.

[20] Rasul Guliev was excluded on the incorrect basis that he was a U.S. "green card" holder, when in reality Guliev has refugee, not residence, status in the U.S. Eldar Namazov was excluded on the technical ground that he had not authenticated his identity documents, even though the CEC had allowed a pro-government candidate to revise his application for similarly minor errors on a separate occasion.

[21] The other pro-government candidates registered and their affiliations were: Abutalib Samedov (Alliance for the Sake of Azerbaijan); Khafiz Hajiyev (Modern Musavat); Gudrat Gasanguliyev (Popular Front of Azerbaijan-Uniters Faction); and Yunus Aliev (National Unity). The other opposition candidates registered and their affiliations were: Lala Shovket (National Unity); Sabir Rustamkhanli (Civil Solidarity), and Araz Alizade (Social Democratic Party).

[22] The statement of the CEC as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Azerbaijan Report,           September 26, 2003.

[23] In a pre-election poll of the Center for Political and Economic Research, 36.3% of the individuals surveyed stated they would vote for Isa Gambar in the presidential elections of 2003. According to the poll, Isa Gambar was the most popular presidential candidate. "Opposition Gains Confidence as Azerbaijan Presidential Election Approaches," Eurasianet, October 6, 2003 [online], http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav100603.shtml (retrieved October 10, 2003).

[24] Opposition supporters instead converged on Azadliq Square, the venue they had originally requested for their rally, and in a violent confrontation stormed the stage of the "Teacher's Day" event and held their rally there. The next morning, police went to the Musavat office and arrested and severely beat Ilqar Gafarov, a Musavat activist, who happened to be present in the office at the time. Gafarov was released the next day, but had extensive injuries from the beatings. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abdullah Rafizadeh, October 8, 2003.

[25] Administrative detention is customarily understood to mean detention ordered by a non-judicial body. Here it refers to detention ordered by a court, for violations of the Azerbaijani Code of Administrative Offenses, which are minor offenses. For the sake of clarity, this report will use the term administrative detention for such cases. Most of the administrative detention hearings documented by Human Rights Watch lasted only a few minutes, and ignored major fair trial guarantees such as the right to a lawyer and the right to present a defense to the charges.

[26] Human Rights Watch interview with Fuad Hassanov, Baku, October 2, 2003.

[27] Human Rights Watch interview with Latifa Allahverdiyeva, Baku, October 4, 2003. "Bey" is an honorific ending for a respected person's given name. Rasul-bey is the honorific name for Rasul Guliev.

[28] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ramitin Makhsudova and Famil Hassanov, Baku, October 4, 2003.

[29] Human Rights Watch interview with Panah Husseinov, Baku, October 6, 2003.

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with Anar Natikoglu, Baku, October 2, 2003.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with Etibar Mamedov and Ali Kerimli, Goitshai, October 8, 2003. The two leaders were saved from injury by their bodyguards, but seventeen opposition members were arrested and released only the next day.

[32] Human Rights Watch interview with Mubaris F., Baku, October 6, 2003. Mubaris F. is a pseudonym.

[33] The Law on NGOs and Public Foundations, Article 2.4.

[34] Earlier in 2003, several Baku-based Azerbaijani human rights defenders endured mob attacks, physical harassment and intimidation that appeared to have been instigated by the authorities, following the participation by one of the human rights defenders in a conference on Nagorno-Karabakh. See Human Rights Watch letter to President Aliev regarding harassment of human rights defenders, April 30, 2003 [online], http://hrw.org/press/2003/05/azer053003ltr.htm (retrieved December 3, 2003).

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with Novella Jafaroglu, Baku, October 1, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Saadat Benaniarly, Baku, October 1, 2003.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview with Saadat Benaniarly, Baku, October 1, 2003.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Human Rights Watch email correspondence, January 7, 2004

[39] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Galuran Mehtiva, October 1, 2003. International aid workers have also been summarily expelled from Nakhchivan. In June 2003, Nakhchivan authorities expelled a Swis development worker and his Azerbaijani counterpart who had come to investigate the tourism potential of the region, after the two were met at the airport by Melahat Nassibova, the head of the women's resource center. Human Rights Watch interview with Shahla Ishmailova, Baku, October 1, 2003.

[40] OSCE ODIHR, Republic of Azerbaijan Parliamentary Elections, 5 November 2000 and 7 January 2001, Final Report.

[41] OSCE ODIHR, Republic of Azerbaijan Presidential Elections 15 October 2003, Final Report, pp. 1-2.

[42] At the Baku polling station monitored by Human Rights Watch, 200 of 700 votes had been cast by voters not on the voter list.

[43] Ibid., p. 18.

[44] Ibid., p. 23.

[45] Ibid., p. 25.

[46] Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Eighth U.N. Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August to 7 September 1990, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112 (1990).

[47] Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, principles 4 and 5.

[48] Ibid., principle 5.

[49] The members of the OCU dress in distinctive all-black uniforms, and often wear black balaclavas masking their faces. Their distinctive dress, clearly designed to intimidate, made it easy to spot them at the October 15 and 16 events.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, October 6, 2003.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, October 15, 2003.

[52] See "Azerbaijan: Presidential Elections-Many journalists beaten or detained," Reporters Sans Frontieres press release, October 16, 2003 [online] http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=8274 (retrieved December 23, 2003).  It lists the names of twenty-five injured journalists.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Asif Aliskerov, Baku, October 15, 2003.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with "Saidali Muradov" (not his real name), Baku, November 15, 2003.

[55] Ibid.

[56] He explained that he was in front of Musavat headquarters at 1:00 a.m. on the night from October 15 to 16, talking to OSCE observers and listening to singer Flora Karimov telling the crowd not to be violent and the police "not to attack their brothers." Suddenly, the police cordon opened and "about fifty sportsmen dressed in black with sticks came out"-OCU agents in their distinctive uniforms-and began beating the protesters: "They attacked us with truncheons and sticks, I almost lost consciousness. I and some others fell down and were under their feet. I was badly hurt." Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, November 16, 2003. The term "sportman" is used in the Caucasus to refer to muscular sports-club members who are often involved in protection or criminal activity.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, November 16, 2003.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Ingilap Mamedov, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003.

[59] See Azeri Interior Minister Warns Opposition Leader Against Fresh Riot, BBC Monitoring Newsfile, October 17, 2003. The opposition leaders accused by Interior Minister Usubov of organizing the violence were Isa Gambar, Arif Hadjiev, Panah Husseinov, Sulheddin Akper, Ibrahim Ibrahimli, Mehdi Mehdiev, Igbal Agazadeh, Rauf Arifoglu, and "others."

[60] Azerbaijan Criminal Procedure Code, Articles 155.1-155.3.

[61] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan, June 6, 2003, Doc. 9826; PACE Opinion No. 222 (2000); PACE Resolution 1272 (2002).

[62] Ibid., paragraphs 52-53.

[63] See, for example, Amnesty International, Azerbaijan: Torture and Ill-Treatment: Comments on the Forthcoming Review by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, October 1, 1999 (documenting cases of torture occurring at the OCU in 1998 and 1997). According to Azerbaijani lawyers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the OCU has been implicated in torture since at least the mid-1990s.

[64] Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, Azerbaijan: Presidential Elections 2003, October 13, pp. 16-17.

[65] The OCU alleged that they had been arrested on Tabriz Street while shouting insulting statements about the government, rather than at Gambar's house.

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Sardar  Agaev, Baku, November 14, 2003.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with Mahir Gambarov, Baku, November 17, 2003.

[69] Beating of the feet, commonly referred to as falanga, falaka or basinado, is a widely recognized form of torture which can have severe consequences, including muscle necrosis, vascular obstruction, and chronic disability and pain. See Action For Torture Survivors, Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ("The Istanbul Protocol"), August 1999, for a detailed medical description of the effects of falanga torture.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Gambar bodyguard, Baku, November 20, 2003.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku region, November 15, 2003.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Natik Jabiev, Baku, November 12, 2003.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with Vugar Khasaev, Baku, November 17, 2003.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with Ilgar Agazadeh, Baku, November 12, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Arif Halilov, Baku, November 12, 2003. Human Rights Watch interview with Mubaris Garaev, Baku, November 15, 2003.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with Mubaris Garaev, Baku, November 15, 2003. A second lawyer, who was present during a medical exam of Iqbal Agazadeh, confirmed the injuries: "He was exposed to torture from October 17 to October 20 at the Organized Crime Unit… There were swellings on his head, injuries on his back, and his leg was seriously injured, swollen and covered in bruises. Even now Iqbal has not recovered from his injuries." Human Rights Watch interview with Osman Kazimov, November 17, 2003.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, November 20, 2003.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirishmail Hadi, Baku, November 16, 2003

[80] Human Rights Watch interview, Baku, November 20, 2003.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirishmail Hadi, Baku, November 16, 2003.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Javer Husseinov, Baku, November 17, 2003.

[83] It would have been difficult for them to have been to Baku and back that day, as Ganja is about six hours by car from Baku.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with Vahif Sadigov, Ganja, November 21, 2003.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Tahir Tahirov, Jalilabad, November 19, 2003.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Mehdi Israfilov, Masalli, November 18, 2003.

[87] Human Rights Watch interview with Zaur Shekirov, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003. The witness requested anonymity.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Telman Yagubov, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003.

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with Davud Gurbanov, Jalilabad, November 23, 2003.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with Farhad Adjirgaev, Zagatala, November 22, 2003.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with Abakir Gardashov, Zagatala, November 22, 2003.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdullah Rafizadeh, Ali Bairamli, November 13, 2003.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Elishafa Husseinov, Ali Bairamli, November 13, 2003.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Alibey Zeynalov, Ali Bairamli, November 13, 2003.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Rovshan Ahmedov, Baku, November 15, 2003.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Ulvi Hakimov, Baku, November 17, 2003.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Akif Bederli, Jalilabad, November 19, 2003.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with "Aidan Agaev" (not his real name), Khajmaz, November 23, 2003.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003. The witness requested anonymity.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassan Hassanov, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003. The witness requested anonymity.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with teacher from Godat who requested anonymity, November 23, 2003.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview with Vugar Muradli, Baku, November 14, 2003.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with Aidan Shabanovm Zagatala, November 22, 2003.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Saleh Sultanov, Zagatala, November 22, 2003.

[107] The cases documented by Human Rights Watch include only those that could be directly confirmed by the organization by interviewing the victim or by obtaining information from reliable local sources. However, in each town and city visited, Human Rights Watch documented additional, previously unknown cases of dismissals. Since many towns and cities were not visited by Human Rights Watch, the actual number of dismissals is likely to be significantly higher than the documented cases.

[108] Unemployemnt is estimated at 16 percent. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fields/2129.html (retrieved January 12, 2004).  The official rate is 1.2 percent.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Mardan Mehdiyev, Khadjmaz, November 22, 2003.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with Arif Halilov, Baku, November 12, 2002.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with Zaur Shekirov, Khadjmaz, November 22, 2003.

[113] Human Rights Watch interview with Saidali Memmedli, Baku, October 14, 2003. Memmedli's official dismissal paper was back-dated October 13, and stated that the reason for his dismissal was non-attendance. However, the only days he did not attend to classes were six days after the election (and after the date of the dismissal order), and he had obtained permission for this absence.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview withMarif Sultanov, Baku, November 14, 2003.

[115] Human Rights Watch interview with Yadigar Sadigov, Lankeran, November 18, 2003.

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with Abbasali Husseinov, Massali, November 18, 2003.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview with Gulagha Abbasov, Khadjmaz, November 23, 2003.

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirzara Akund, Salyan, November 19, 2003.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with Afghan Agaev, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Mirnizam Agayev, Saatli, November 13, 2003. The written dismissal order reads: "The Presidential Elections, held on 15 October 2003 in the Azerbaijan Republic, were conducted in a fair and democratic way and the presidential candidate, Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, was elected with a very high number of votes. The opposition, which does not want to accept this, particularly the head of Musavat, Isa Gambar, appealed to his party members and the nation in general to rally in Baku in order to cause intimidation and confrontation. For that reason, on October 16, 2003, there was confrontation and bloodshed. A person who loves his nation and government must not take part in such illegal actions. Though there were repeated appeals to the military chief of the school, [Mirnizam Agaev], not to attend such rallies, he took part in the confrontation on October 16, 2003, without taking care of his lessons."

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Mikail Humbatov, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[122] Human Rights Watch interview with Abasgulu Abasli, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with Rahim Gubadov, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with Namik Kasimov, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Iqbal Jahangirov, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Etibar Imanov, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Agarazah Miriev, Saatli, November 13, 2003.

[128] OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, OSCE/ODIHR, Joint Press Release: Azerbaijan Voting Generally Orderly But Electoral Process Still Short of International Standards in Several Respects, October 16, 2003.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Institute of Democracy in Eastern Europe, Votum Separatum/Dissenting Opinion of the Institute of Democracy in Eastern Europe observer mission from the OSCE/ODIHR Preliminary Report about the Presidential Elections of October 15, 2003 in the Republic of Azerbaijan, October 18, 2003.

[131]  Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, October 17, 2003. Available at 222.ueitalia2003. Accessed November 4, 2003.

[132] Fifth Meetings of the Cooperation Councils between the European Union, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Brussels, 20 September 2003, 13071/03 (Presse 284).

[133] OSCE/ODIHR, "OSCE Human Rights Head Deplores Wave of Arrest in Azerbaijan," October 20, 2003.

[134] Council of Europe voices concern over post-electoral developments in Azerbaijan, press release 518a (2003), October 20, 2003.

[135] United Nations, Human Rights Special Rapporteurs Express Deep Concern over Situation in Azerbaijan, October 28, 2003.

[136] OSCE/ODIHR, OSCE/ODIHR Human Rights Chief Calls on Azeri Authorities to Recognize Violations During Presidential Election, November 20, 2003.

[137] State Department Office of the Spokesman, Armitage-Aliyev Phone Call, October 20, 2003.

[138] "A Strong Performance? (editorial)," Washington Post, October 22, 2003.

[139] Bradley Graham, "Rumsfeld Discusses Tighter Military Ties with Azerbaijan," Washington Post, December 4, 2003.