<<previous  | index  |  next>>


Immediately after the October 16 violence, the Azerbaijani government unleashed a massive and brutal campaign of arrest and torture against the political opposition. While the October 16 violence served may have provided the official justification for the massive arrest campaign, the authorities began arresting not only persons who had been directly involved in the October 16 violence, but also hundreds of opposition leaders and supporters, including many branch party chiefs throughout the country. In addition, more than one hundred opposition election officials and official opposition election observers were detained, often because they had refused, after witnessing fraudulent practices, to sign the vote-count protocols that needed to be issued by each polling station.

The arrests began with opposition party leaders. On October 17, Minister of Interior Ramil Usubov stated in a televised address that his investigation had concluded that a number of opposition leaders had organized the October 16 violence and would be held to account.[59] A number of national opposition leaders were among those immediately arrested, including Sardar Jalaloglu, secretary-general of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party; Igbal Agazadeh, a member of parliament (who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on October 17) and leader of the Umid (“Hope”) Party; Panah Husseinov, a former prime minister of Azerbaijan (1992-93) and leader of the Khalq party; and Etimad Asadov, the chairperson of the Karabagh Invalids’ Association, which joined the pro-Musavat Bizim Azerbaijan (Our Azerbaijan) block.

Isa Gambar, the leader of the Musavat party, remains at liberty, but four of his deputies have been detained: Sulheddin Akper, deputy chief of international affairs; Ibrahim Ibrahimli, deputy chief for humanitarian affairs; Arif Hajiev, deputy chief for organizational affairs; and Rauf Arifoglu, the deputy chief for propaganda issues and editor-in-chief of the Yeni Musavat newspaper, who sought refuge for four days in the Norwegian embassy and was detained after he left it.

By early January 2004, the Azerbaijani authorities continued to detain some 128 persons, including all of the opposition leaders mentioned above, under three-month-long investigative detention sentences. Azerbaijan’s criminal procedure code allows judges to sentence persons to investigative detention if it is determined that the person poses a flight risk, could cause additional disorder, is dangerous to society, or refuses to cooperate with the investigators.[60] The persons who are currently in investigative detention have been charged with “organizing and participating in mass disorder” (article 220.1 of the criminal code) and “causing injury to officials” (article 315.2 of the criminal code). No dates have yet been set for their trials, but if found guilty, the opposition leaders and members could receive sentences of up to twelve years in prison. The three-month investigative detention sentences begin to expire in mid-January (depending on the date of the individual’s arrest), but it is unclear whether trials will then commence or whether the courts will simply extend the investigative detention period.

Azerbaijan already has a long list of persons who are imprisoned for political reasons, and the Council of Europe and other international organizations have demanded their release.[61] Council of Europe experts have been severely critical of the trials of political prisoners, describing three recent retrials of major political prisoners (Iskender Hamidov, a former interior minister, Rahim Gaziev, a former defense minister, and Alikram Humbatov, an ethnic Talish former militia leader) as a “sham” controlled by the authorities rather than the judiciary.[62] In light of the fact that the authorities are using torture and coercion to gather evidence against the persons detained for the October 15-16 violence and the lack of independence of the judiciary in Azerbaijan, Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that the trials for the October 15-16 events, if they occur, will be deeply unfair.

Torture of Opposition Leaders at the Organized Crime Unit (OCU)

The OCU carried out many of the arrests of national opposition leaders. The unit has a long history of using torture and severe physical abuse.[63] OCU personnel often appear in public dressed in all black and masked with balaclavas, an appearance designed for maximum intimidation. The OCU was directly involved in some of the worst post-election violence, including the unprovoked attack on Musavat supporters on October 15 and the violence at Azadliq Square on October 16.

The OCU was created in the mid-1990s and employs about 300 persons. The head of the OCU is Vilaet Evasin, who is believed to have served as a bodyguard to Minister of Interior, Ramil Ubusov, prior to his appointment to the OCU. Numerous victims and witnesses, interviewed separately by Human Rights Watch, said that the Vahif Mamedov, chief of the OCU’s department against banditry, personally participated in torture and beatings and threatened some of the detainees with electric shocks and even rape. Similar abuses at the OCU, including abuses in the presence of Vahif Mamedov, were also documented by Human Rights Watch during the pre-election period.[64]

The OCU is responsible for torture of many of the detainees, including leading political figures, who were detained at their Baku headquarters. The torture methods used by the OCU include severe beatings, painful beatings to the soles of the feet, electric shocks and threats of rape. Many of the detainees still bore signs of their torture, including injured limbs and severe bruises, when they were brought before the courts or transferred to other detention facilities. But judges and detention facility officials asked no questions about these marks, thus perpetuating the impunity with which the Baku OCU torture center operates.

Since most of the senior national political figures arrested still remain in detention at the time of writing, detailed testimonies about their ill-treatment cannot be obtained from them at this time. However, the testimonies of those detained with them clearly show the extent of the abuse experienced at the hands of OCU.

Among those arrested and tortured at the OCU were four bodyguards and the driver of Isa Gambar, detained outside Gambar’s apartment building on the evening of October 16. Sardar Agaev, the driver, explained to Human Rights Watch how a group of about forty masked men had taken them from the yard of Gambar’s building to the OCU at about 7:30 p.m. and forced them to sign blank statements and another statement saying they did not need a lawyer. Then, the men were taken to the Narimanov District Court, where they were falsely accused of insulting a police officer and sentenced to fifteen days of administrative detention.[65]

After their sentencing, the men were returned to the Organized Crime Unit. After being stripped naked, they were separated and the beatings began:

I was taken to a cell located at the end of the corridor. There, seven people—four in black, one in green camouflage and two in civilian clothes—began beating me. I was beaten with fists and rubber truncheons, and being kicked. I was like a ball in their hands. They beat me, and when one got tired he would push me to another. Several times, I fell down. Once I was hit very strongly in the chest, and as I fell they began hitting me on the back with something heavy. Their beating lasted for an hour or so. They were threatening, saying “We have a bottle and we will rape you now,” things like that. …At about 1:00 a.m. I was taken back to the cell. Because of the heavy beating to my back, I couldn’t walk straight.[66]

The next morning, Agaev was beaten again in the morning by a group of four men:

They were very strong men, I was like a chicken to them. Two of them had rubber truncheons and the other two were punching and kicking me. My head was injured, they hit me many times in the head. They also focused their punches on my kidneys, they surrounded me and punched me wherever they wanted. After this, I had blood in my urine. [At the end] I lost consciousness and they threw water over me.[67]

Agaev was never really interrogated, just beaten. After an ICRC delegate met with him on October 20, the beatings stopped. On October 23, he was transferred to Khataye temporary detention center, and was released early on October 25, after being ordered to appeal his sentence to the Court of Appeals.

Mahir Gambarov, a cousin of Isa Gambar, was another one of the men arrested with the drivers and bodyguards. He told Human Rights Watch about similarly severe beatings, which only grew more intense when his attackers found out he was related to Isa Gambar. As soon as he entered the OCU building, he was beaten:

They took me to a room, there were three civilians and many others dressed in black. They asked me my name, and when I said Gambarov, as soon as they heard that, they began beating me. I was beaten so much that my feet barely touched the ground. … It was awful. They pushed me against the wall, and continued to beat me, taking turns. There was a portrait of Heidar Aliev, and seven or eight of them were holding me, making me beg the portrait for mercy. I was in that room for about one hour and the whole time I was beaten.[68]

Gambarov was sentenced to fifteen days of administrative detention on falsified charges, according to which he had been arrested in the street while insulting the government; in fact, he was arrested at Isa Gambar’s apartment. He was kept the entire time at the OCU, and where he endured beatings and torture for ten days. His detailed description of the torture he experienced directly implicates Vahif Mamedov, the head of the subdepartment against banditry inside the OCU:

On October 17, they began to take us up [from the basement cells] for interrogation. I was questioned about the financing of Musavat and Isa Gambar, who gave Musavat money. I couldn’t answer, because I know nothing about this. Every time I couldn’t answer, Vahif’s assistants would beat me. I was punched in the chest, slapped in my face, beaten with rubber truncheons on my legs. They handcuffed me, because I had tried at first to protect my face.

Then they took off my shoes and socks and began beating me on the soles of my feet.[69] They kept saying, “Don’t think you will just get away with beatings, we will rape you, we will fuck you and shame your family.”

Once I was taken to Vahif…Vahif started screaming at his assistants, saying I had confessed nothing. Then he turned to me and said: “We get even the most honorable of men to speak here—do you know how? Have you been taken to the backroom yet? We have an electric chair there, and once you go there, you will speak, you won’t be able to stop speaking.” Vahif then told his men, “Just take him and make him speak. If he doesn’t speak, take him to the backroom.”

At other times, when I was handcuffed, they would pull my fingers apart with all their strength. They had a homemade tool with rubber pincers, and they would pinch my fingers until I screamed out in pain. Then they would plunge my hand into ice-cold water until I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. …Another time, they put my feet under the legs of a chair and made a fat man sit in the chair, pressing down on my feet. Another man was behind me and pinching my fingers with the rubber tool. The fat man kept sitting up and down in the chair. One of the police man turned to me and said, “If the opposition had won, we would have traded places.”[70]

One of Isa Gambar’s bodyguards, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of further persecution, told Human Rights Watch that he had also been threatened with rape by Vahif Mamedov, and that Mamedov’s assistants had actually begun to carry out the threat when the bodyguard stopped them by agreeing to cooperate:

[After returning from sentencing on the night of October 16], they took me to Vahif and his deputy. There was another very big man. They wanted me to testify that I had a weapon. I was beaten twice as much as before because I refused. … I was on the ground holding my head, to protect it. They kept kicking me on the ground. Then they ordered me to insult Isa Gambar, and became even more aggressive. … Then they threatened to rape me. Vahif said, “OK, let’s fuck this bastard.” One held me and two of them tried to pull down my pants. I was trying to hold up my pants and they were beating me on my hands with their truncheons. I knew that they were serious about raping me, so I said, “OK, I will insult Gambar.” They brought a dictaphone and told me to repeat their curses. They were going to use their truncheons to rape me.[71]

Human Rights Watch was able to confirm one case in which electric shocks torture was actually used at the OCU, almost resulting in the death of the victim. The electric shocks were administered through a sophisticated electric chair, not an ad-hoc system. The victim, a respected village leader and Musavat chair from a village around Baku who wished to remain anonymous, explained how he was taken to a room at the OCU on October 18:

There was a chair in the room and they tied my hands and arms into the chair. There were two masked men in the room, dressed in black. One of them said, “Will you tell us what you know or should we start?” I told them I had nothing to tell them. He said, “OK, let’s start then,” and burned my hand by extinguishing his cigarette on it. Then they put an apron over me and something like headphones over my head. He said, “We ask you for the last time.” I said I had nothing to say. Then he said, “OK, enjoy the music.”

They turned on the current and I felt the current going through me—my artificial teeth fell out and broke. My tongue came out and my nose started bleeding—they only stopped the current when my nose started bleeding. There was blood all over the apron. Then one said, “Do you want to die here? Just tell us what we want to know.”

They took off my shoes and socks and brought a flat plate that had sockets for my feet which could be locked. They connected this with the current. After this, I lost consciousness and don’t remember anything. When I woke, I was lying on a bench and someone dressed in white, a doctor, was pressing on my chest [giving CPR]. The two masked men were still there. At the moment I woke, one of the masked men said “Is it enough now, will you tell us what we want to know?” and hit me. The doctor started cursing them, saying “Are you not human? Don’t you see I just saved this man’s life?” Then a man in civilian clothes came in and told the masked men, “That’s enough for today, you are not needed anymore.”[72]

Many of the opposition leaders detained also endured severe abuse. The OCU detained Natik Jabiev, the ADP elections secretary together with ADP Secretary-General Sardar Jalaloglu at the latter’s house on the evening of October 18. The masked, armed OCU members broke in through the windows of the home and began beating Jabiev and Jalaloglu immediately before taking them to the OCU office. After being forced to lay on the wet ground of the OCU’s courtyard for thirty minutes, the whole time being kicked and beaten, Jabiev was taken to the office of Vahif Mamedov, where he was questioned and beaten for nearly four hours. Mamedov wanted Jabiev to implicate ADP chair Rasul Guliev and secretary-general Jalaloglu in the post-election violence. When Mamedov found the business card of Peter Eicher, the head of the OSCE’s elections monitoring team, in Jabiev’s pocket, he went so far as to demand that Jabiev state that Eicher himself had been involved in the planning of the post-election violence. Before beginning the interrogation, Vahif Mamedov personally beat Jabiev for about forty-five minutes:

At first Vahif was alone with me. I was handcuffed. He was beating me with his fists and kicking me. He also hit me several times on the ears with his open palms [trying to burst my eardrums], and punched me in the kidneys. He told me to stand up and then kicked me in the testicles, so I fell down. During the beating, he broke my chair [hitting me with it], so they had to bring another chair. He didn’t ask me anything, he only insulted me.[73]

After the initial beating, Vahif was joined by two investigators, including a senior official in the investigative division of the OCU. Still handcuffed, Jabiev continued to be beaten while being questioned for the next three hours. After the interrogation, he was taken to the basement cells, where a group of masked men dressed in black administered another severe beating.[74]

Jabiev was released on October 25, but Jalaloglu has been sentenced to three months of investigative detention. Jalaloglu’s lawyer said that he noticed only minor injuries on his client when he saw him during a court hearing on October 19, but was shocked to find a severely injured Jalaloglu when he managed to finally see his client again at Bayil prison on October 22. The lawyer told Human Rights Watch: “He had a big hematoma on his right hip, I saw it with my own eyes. … He had many more injuries all over his body.”[75]

Iqbal Agazadeh, the leader of Umid party and a member of parliament, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity by a special session of parliament on October 17 after the broadcast of a tape showing him addressing the Adazdliq protesters on October 16. He was similarly abused. His brother Ilgar, who was arrested with him, described how masked OCU members came to the family home on October 17 and started shooting in the air before arresting Iqbal and four others. On the way to the OCU, one of the OCU members with a steel-reinforced glove continuously punched Iqbal Agazadeh in the face.

When they arrived at the OCU, they were made to lie down in the courtyard, where they were handcuffed and then beaten with rubber truncheons and kicked. Suddenly, one of the officer planted a gun on Ilgar—who had already been subjected to a detailed body search when he was first arrested—and then “discovered” the gun, allowing the OCU to charge Ilgar Agazadeh falsely with unlawful possession of a weapon. Mubaris Garaev, Iqbal Agazadeh’s lawyer who was also arrested with him, told Human Rights Watch that he had witnessed the planting of the gun on Ilgar Agazadeh. [76]

Iqbal Agazadeh was brutally tortured at the OCU. When his lawyer finally gained access to him on October 20, Agazadeh had just been forced to give an interview to ANS television in which he denounced Musavat and Isa Gambar for their role in the October 16 violence. The involvement of ANS and Lider television channels in the taping of dozens of coerced confessions and denunciations of Musavat by persons showing evident signs of torture shows an absolute disregard for professional journalistic ethics. The interview was extracted after days of torture, according to his lawyer:

The most awful torture began after [he was returned from administrative court on the night of October 17]. [He told me] one of his legs was hit fifty times without stopping. When I went to visit him [at Bayil prison] he showed me the bruises all over his body. … Iqbal could withstand the torture [but then] they said, “If you don’t denounce Musavat, we will arrest your sister and you can guess what we will do to her.”[77]

Another detainee at the OCU saw how a virtually unconscious Iqbal Agazadeh was brought back to his cell after a beating:

I saw Iqbal Agazadeh being brought to the cell block. He was being dragged along the ground. He was handcuffed behind his back, and there were about 20 men in masks surrounding him…one of them was pulling Iqbal by his clothes, and the others were beating him.[78]

Nearly a month after the beatings, in mid-November, Iqbal Agazadeh was still barely able to walk because of the injuries caused by the beatings to his leg.

Ibrahim Ibrahimli, the deputy chair of Musavat for humanitarian affairs was, according to his lawyer, beaten while handcuffed in a chair at the OCU. His right index finger was crushed in a steel door, when he refused to denounce Musavat and Isa Gambar, and implicate himself in the October 16 events. When his lawyer finally managed to see him on October 18, Ibrahimli was unable to speak because he had not been allowed to eat or drink since his October 16 arrest: “His left hand was swollen and he had to hold it up (with his other hand). His right hand’s index finger was swollen and black. He had bruises on his face. He had difficulty walking, and he later showed me the soles of his feet which were completely black.”[79]

Paneh Husseinov, the former prime minister of Azerbaijan and leader of the Khalq party, faced similar torture, although he has been reluctant to talk about it. His cellmate at the OCU, a bodyguard of Isa Gambar, recounted: “Paneh was brought to my cell. He kept being taken from his cell and was beaten many times. His face got all swollen and red, and I saw the bruises all over his body—his arms were black with bruises.”[80] His lawyer confirmed that Husseinov had received severe injuries: “There were traces all over his body and face.”[81]

The beatings and torture at OCU extended over weeks, even after OSCE and other international representatives had visited the facility and raised their concerns with the authorities. Etimad Asadov, the chairperson of the Karabagh Invalids’ Association, was arrested and taken to the OCU on October 26. The fact that he is a war veteran with an artificial leg made no difference: like so many others, he was apparently severely beaten at the OCU. His lawyer, who visited Asadov at Bayil prison on October 29, told Human Rights Watch he noticed bruises on his back, arms, and chest.[82]

Arrests and Abuse of Regional Opposition Chairpersons and Activists, and Election Officials and Observers

The crackdown on the opposition went far beyond the arrests of national opposition leaders and persons directly involved in the October 15 and 16 incidents. Throughout Azerbaijan, local police officials detained hundreds of opposition activists and local opposition leaders who had nothing to do with the events in Baku. In the days following the October 16 violence, Human Rights Watch confirmed the arrest of more than 400 persons throughout Azerbaijan, although the actual number of detentions was no doubt significantly higher, because information from many regions was unavailable. In addition, hundreds more were summoned to police stations or prosecutor’s offices for “talks” that often involved demands to renounce their membership in opposition political parties.

These arrests throughout Azerbaijan sought to pressure opposition members to renounce their membership in opposition political parties and to denounce Musavat and other opposition parties. They did not appear to be part of a genuine criminal inquiry. Police frequently beat opposition members in custody. The courts were wholly complicit in the repression: opposition members who were detained without resistance or even went voluntarily to the police station were sentenced to administrative detention sentences up to fifteen days for resisting or insulting the police. Judges also consistently ignored evidence of torture and beatings, sometimes increasing sentences when detainees tried to bring evidence of abuse to their attention.

Human Rights Watch documented arbitrary arrests of opposition members and election officials in Baku and in Agsu, Ali Bairamli, Agstafa, Astara, Baku, Barda, Beilagan, Bilesuvar, Fizuli, Ganja, Garadagh, Gazakh, Gebele, Gedebey, Gobustan, Goichai, Guba, Gusar, Imishli, Ismailly, Jabrail, Jalilabad, Khajmaz, Khanlar, Kurdamir, Lenkaran, Masalli, Nakhchivan, Saatli, Sabirabad, Salyan, Shamkir, Shekie, Siazan, Sumgait, Ter-ter, Tovuz, Yardimli, Zagatala, and Zangilan. The following cases document only a small number of the arrests and abuses that took place in these locations; but are illustrative of similar arrests and abuses that took place all over Azerbaijan.

Arrest and Abuse of Election Officials and Observers

Among those detained and abused were more than one hundred election officials and observers who, after witnessing fraudulent practices, had refused to sign their voting stations’ protocols which certify the station’s vote count, or who had made official complaints about the fraud that they had witnessed. Police apparently detained these officials and observers for the purpose of pressuring them to sign the protocols, or to punish them for publicizing the widespread fraud committed during the presidential elections. In Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja, alone, Human Rights Watch documented the cases of thirty-six election officials and observers who had been detained or questioned for their election-related work.

Arzu Ishmailov, a Musavat member who served on a district election commission in Ganja, went to the police station on the afternoon of October 16, after he had received reports that some opposition election officials from the polling stations had been detained. When he arrived, he himself was arrested and found that a total of seventeen opposition election officials were being detained at the Nizami police station. From 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on October 17, the men were interrogated about the events in Baku the previous day, even though none of them had been to Baku that day.[83] Police punched two of the election officials and beat them with truncheons. After pressure from the OSCE, the group was released on October 17 at about 3:00 p.m., but many continue to face police harassment and other problems.

Another of the seventeen detained election officials, Vahif Sadigov, was arrested at his home during the night of October 16 and detained for eleven hours. The first question he was asked at the police station was why he had refused to sign the protocol. He was then pressured to denounce Musavat and give up his membership.[84]

Tahir Tahirov, a teacher of Azeri literature, served as a Musavat commission member at a polling station in the Jalilabad area. When he refused to sign the polling station protocol on election day—in part because the polling station had recorded votes for people whom he knew were dead, and because the chairman had produced from his office a half-filled voting box that was supposed to be empty up to that stage—the polling station chairman physically assaulted him. On October 17, he was arrested and taken to the police station, where the police chief yelled at him for refusing to sign the protocol, and falsely accused him of having participated in the October 16 violence. The police chief then told his officers, “Take him away and give him ten days.” The court quickly sentenced him, but he was released on the third day, apparently after pressure from the OSCE.[85]

Mehdi Israfilov served as a Musavat election observer in the district election commission in Masalli. When he protested irregularities during the vote counting, the commission chairman pushed him out of the room. Israfilov went to the OSCE observers to complain, and informed them of the fraud he had witnessed. Since then, he has been called four times to the local prosecutor’s office, whose questions focused on why Israfilov contacted the OSCE observers, and why he reported fraud to the OSCE—never mentioning any suspected wrongdoing on the part of Israfilov.[86]

Zaur Shekirov, a Musavat member and polling station commission member in Khajmaz, refused to sign his polling station’s protocol because he noticed many irregularities on voting day. On the evening of October 16, he was called to the local police station, presented with the protocol that lacked only his signature, and ordered to sign or “face problems.” He agreed to sign, but was fired from his position at the local electricity plant the same day.[87]

A Musavat polling station official in Godat village who refused to sign the protocol because of the fraud he had witnessed was taken to the police station on October 18. The chairwoman of the polling station was also at the police station, and told him that she was having problems because of his refusal to sign the protocol. The police officials tried to get him to sign a statement that the local Musavat chair had instructed him over the phone not to sign the protocol.[88] Another member of the same commission had similar problems when he refused to sign the protocol. On the night of October 15, a large group of armed police came to his home and demanded that he sign. Out of fear for his safety, he complied.[89]

Davud Gurbanov was a commission member at a polling station in Jalilabad who also refused to sign his polling station’s protocol because of the fraud he had witnessed. On October 17, he was arrested and taken to the police station. The chief of police asked him if he had refused to sign the protocol and had gone to Baku on October 16. When Gurbanov answered yes, he was taken directly to court. The judge asked if he had refused to sign the protocol, and when Gurbanov answered affirmatively, he was sentenced to fifteen days of administrative detention. When Gurbanov asked the judge the reason for the sentence, the judge got angry and told him he did not need a reason. He and another polling station official, Tahir Tagiev, were detained for only two days and then released following pressure from the OSCE—whose observers were outside the police station when the men were released.[90]

Farhad Adjirgaev was a district election commissioner in Zagatala; on the evening of October 16, police arrested him at home. When he arrived at the police station, a deputy police chief began cursing him about the October 16 violence, and Adjirgaev asked him not to curse him, saying that he could use the same curses if needed. The deputy punched Adjirgaev in the mouth, and when Adjirgaev fell down a group of policemen began kicking him. His mouth bleeding and his ribs aching, Adjirgaev managed to run into the office of the police chief, and told him he had just been beaten, believing the police chief would intervene. The police chief replied, “Good for those who did this [beating], you are a rude and impudent man and I will put you in jail.” Adjirgaev was then falsely charged with attacking a police officer and taking his gun, and sentenced to two months investigative detention. After appealing to the Court of Appeals, he was released on October 29.[91]

Abakir Gardashov, a Musavat member and polling station commission member who refused to sign the protocol, was detained when he voluntarily went to the police station. Two days later he was sentenced to administrative detention on the false charge that he resisted and insulted the police—when he tried to explain to the judge that he had voluntarily gone to the police station, the judge rudely told him to “shut up.” When he was released after seven days, he found that the Zagatala market police had destroyed his teahouse, the only source of income for his family.[92]

Arbitrary Arrest and Abuse of Opposition Officials and Members

The abuse and arbitrary arrests faced by local opposition party officials and their members was more severe than that endured by election officials. In some towns, the police simply arrested the entire leadership of the opposition. In Ali Bairamli for example, the police detained the chairs of Musavat, the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP), the ADP, Umid, and well as a number of Musavat members. In nearby Saatli, police detained the chairs of Musavat, the Liberal Party, APFP, and ADP, as well as other members of most of these parties.

Abdullah Rafizadeh, the Ali Bairamli chair of Musavat, received a phone call on October 17 from a criminal investigator who asked to meet him outside a sports center in town. As soon as Rafizadeh got out of the car, a thug came up to him and punched him hard in the face with a pair of brass knuckles, causing serious injury. On his way to the hospital, Rafizadeh, his son and three Musavat members were stopped by the police and arrested, without incident. The next day, they were brought to court on the false charge of insulting the police and sentenced to fifteen days. The police refused to allow Rafizadeh to see a doctor, and the detainees were forced to sweep the road and pick up garbage. He was released after ten days, after the police forced him to pay a $500 bribe, or face investigative detention for months.[93]

Some of the Musavat members were beaten at the Ali Bairamli police station. Elishafa Husseinov, a member of Musavat, was detained on October 17 while shopping at the market, and beaten by eight policemen at the station: “They were beating me with their hands and fists, all of them. I finally fell down but they continued to kick me. After this, I had a hard time breathing for several days.” He was detained for five days.[94]

Many of the detentions seem to have been for the sole purpose of getting opposition members to renounce their party membership and make public statements against Musavat. For example, Alibei Zeinalov, a Musavat member who also served as a polling station commission member, was arrested at his home on October 17, and sentenced to administrative detention for resisting the police, even though he had voluntarily accompanied them. During his detention, he was repeatedly taken to the police chief, who ordered him to denounce Musavat publicly, threatening to close his brother’s teahouse and to arrest his relatives if he refused. Zeinalov finally relented to protect his family, and was filmed by Lider TV reading a pre-prepared statement that he was resigning from Musavat, blamed Musavat for the October 16 violence, and that the elections were democratic. The statement was broadcast on October 22.[95]

In many areas, police simply detained opposition leaders and members and tried to get them to give evidence against the opposition, without significant physical violence. In other areas, detained opposition members faced severe violence and extortion attempts from the police.

Severe police abuse took place in many police stations in Baku. Rovshan Ahmedov, a member of ADP, was called to police station 9 in Baku on November 9, and was beaten there by three police officials who assaulted him with rubber truncheons, fists and with a chair, trying to force him to denounce ADP Secretary-General Sardar Jalaloglu. He was then taken to the prosecutor’s office where he was questioned for two days and pressured to denounce Jalaloglu.[96] Ulvi Hakimov, the president of the Azerbaijan National Democracy Foundation, was detained on October 18 after being wrongly identified on the Lider TV channel as being responsible for the beating of one of Lider’s journalists on October 15. At the police station, he was hit hard on the ear about twenty times by an official who demanded that he confess to his involvement in the beating of the Lider journalist. He was then taken to the prosecutor’s office, and from there to the home of the Lider journalist, who Hakimov said was unable to identify him as the perpetrator.[97]

Akif Bederli, the Musavat chairperson in Jalilabad, was detained together with a group of other Jalilabad opposition figures in Baku at about 5:00 p.m. on October 16. The men had gone to Baku to report their election observations to the Musavat headquarters, reaching Baku long after the protest in Azadliq Square had finished. However, a roving group of pro-government vigilantes and police spotted a Yeni Musavant paper being held by one of the men as they stood discussing what to do, and rapidly detained the group. The men were taken to Yasamal police station. The station chief told his officers to “bring two more of these dead men,” and the officers brought Bederli and another Musavat activist from Jalilabad, sixty-seven-year-old Hadjibala Agaev, to his office. They were then beaten by about ten police officers:

About ten police officers entered the room. They had been watching television [broadcasts of the Azadliq events] and began cursing us and Isa Gambar in an awful way. They began beating me. Then I was told to kneel. One of the policemen kicked me in the face, breaking my nose and making it bleed. Four others were beating me on my back. Hajiballa is sixty-seven years old, but he was beaten more violently than me. Then they took me to the bathroom and made me clean up the blood on the floor [of the police chief’s office], while cursing us the whole time. For us [culturally], it was even more painful to be cursed at this way than to be beaten.[98]

Police abuse against opposition figures was particularly severe in Khajmaz and Guba provinces, located about 100 miles north of Baku. At least fifty opposition supporters were detained in Khajmaz and Guba and suffered severe beatings, threats of rape, humiliation, and attempts at extortion. Victims consistently named top police officials who were directly involved in the abuses. Their names are on file with Human Rights Watch.

“Aidan Agaev” (not his real name), a member of APFP and an election observer was detained in the afternoon of October 17 and taken to Guba police station. As soon as he arrived, three top police officials punched and kicked him, and beat him with truncheons. He was then taken to court, accused of assaulting the police, and sentenced to twelve days administrative detention. The next day, two deputy police chiefs took Agaev to the police chief. He was made to kneel in front of the police chief, who began beating him on the ears with cupped hands, attempting to burst his ear drums. The police chief then suggested they rape Agaev, saying “Bring the bottle, we will take off his pants and make him sit on the bottle.” The police officers began pulling down Agaev’s pants, as he begged them to stop. He was then told to write a statement denouncing APFP and joining the ruling YAP party, which he refused to do.

Two days later, he was taken to the office of one of the deputy chiefs, who showed him a video of the October 16 violence and suggested that if he decided to send Agaev to Baku he would face torture. The deputy chief then suggested Agaev pay a $3,000 bribe for his release. Agaev refused. When he was released two days later, he found out that the deputy had contacted his brother and extorted a $2,000 bribe from the family, threatening that otherwise Agaev would be sent to Baku and detained for years.[99]

It appears that the Guba police officials arrested and abused opposition officials for the express purpose of extorting money. A regional Musavat official went voluntarily to the Guba police station on October 17 because some of his members were detained, and himself soon became a victim of abuse:

There were three police in the room, and without any explanation they attacked me with their fists, clubs, and kicks. One of the deputy chiefs, [name withheld] kicked me into another room, [made] me sit in a chair [and] began beating me with a truncheon and his fists.

Then I was left alone with [deputy chief], who explained that I could be jailed for two to five years, and taken to the Organized Crime Unit where I would be tortured. He said he would only help me if I gave him $1,000, then he would get me released.[100]

The detainee was then released and told he had one hour to collect the money, and ultimately paid a $500 bribe.

Hassan Hassanov, the ANIP chairman in Guba, was also arrested on October 17 and taken to the Guba police station. When he arrived at the police station, a deputy police chief slapped him in the face and ordered a group of policemen to beat him, stating that he had warned Hassanov he would arrest him after the election because he brought ANIP opposition candidate Etibar Mamedov to Guba. At about 2:00 a.m. on October 18, he was taken to the office of the police chief, where he was again beaten, and threatened with rape, being told “We will rape you, and take photos and distribute them to your family and on the street. We will put the photos up the same way you put up posters of Etibar [Mamedov].” The police insisted that he denounce ANIP. When he was released five days later, he was told to go report to the head of the executive authority, who ordered him to renounce ANIP and to release all his members from ANIP as well. Since then, Hassanov has asked his ANIP members not to come to the ANIP office, out of concern that they will face problems.[101]

Similarly severe beatings took place at the Khajmaz police station. Police there kept the detainees outside in the yard of the police station for about fifty hours, forcing the detainees to stand and sleep in the rainy, cold weather, not even bothering to take them to court. At one point, a top police official, whose name is on file with Human Rights Watch, came into the courtyard and ordered one of the detainees to kiss his feet. When the man refused, he was brutally beaten:

The police chief said, “Take him away and explain to him that he will kiss my feet.” They took him away and we heard awful noises and screams. They brought him back a bloody mess and threw him at the feet of the police chief. That time, he kissed the chief’s feet. He was then told to repeat some curses against Isa Gambar.[102]

Human Rights Watch documented at least ten additional cases where opposition members were forced to pay bribes ranging from $500 to $1,000 to be released from the Khajmaz and Guba police stations, after being threatened with torture, transfer to the OCU in Baku, or long-term detention. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, none of the detainees forced to pay the bribes had any connection to the October 16 events.

Similar abuses also took place in other areas around Khajmaz. In Godat, north of Khajmaz, the police arrested in October 17 a school teacher, who was a member of Musavat and had also served as a commission member at a local polling station. At the police station, a senior police officer in Godat demanded that the teacher renounce his membership in Musavat and asked for his Musavat membership card. When the teacher tried to argue, the senior officer took out a gun and pointed it at the teacher, telling him he would rape him and publicize the pictures if he did not resign from Musavat. The teacher signed a statement that had been prepared by the police. As he was released, the senior officer warned the teacher that he would arrest him “for life” if he ever saw him again at any Musavat events.[103]

Human Rights Watch also documented severe beatings in Zagatala, a town located close to the Georgian border, and the birthplace of detained Musavat deputy chair Arif Hajiev. A number of opposition members and pro-opposition journalists were severely beaten at the Zagatala police station, often in the presence and with the participation of a top police official whose name is on file with Human Rights Watch.

Vugar Muradli, a journalist for the opposition newspaper Hurriyet and an election observer for the ADP, went to Baku on October 16 to report his election observations to the ADP headquarters, but did not participate in the October 16 incident, as he reached Baku only around 5:00 p.m. When he returned to Zagatala on October 17, he went directly to the police station because his family had already been harassed by police officials looking for him. As soon as he arrived at the station, he was taken to the office a top police official and a deputy chief of the traffic department:

[One] started cursing me and pushed me towards the wall. [The other] started beating me, punching me in the face with his fists. I fell down, and both started kicking me aggressively. I told them the OSCE was coming. Then [one] said, “Don’t beat him in the face.” So they got some truncheons. I was already bleeding from my mouth and the side of my head was bruised. They began hitting me on the back of the head with truncheons, and on my arms because I was trying to protect my head, and on my legs—they were also punching me in the kidneys. … They beat me for thirty minutes without stopping, and then only stopped because they were tired. They were insulting and cursing me, and when I fell to the ground, they began spitting all over me.[104]

The next day, Muradli was taken to court, charged with resisting police—even though he had voluntarily come to the police station and clearly showed signs of beating—and sentenced to seven days administrative detention. He was released after five days.

Opposition members in Zagatala also faced arbitrary detention, beatings, and retaliatory actions by the local officials. Aidan Shabanov, a Musavat member who was in Baku on October 16 but did not participate in the protests, was detained for eight days and said he was repeatedly beaten at the police station.[105] Saleh Sultanov, the chair of Musavat in Zagatala, also voluntarily went to the police station after he returned from Baku on October 17, where he had gone to deliver his election report. He was sentenced to ten days administrative detention on the false charge of resisting the police, but was not mistreated during his detention.[106] In addition, two election commission members in Zagatala were arrested for their refusal to sign election protocols (see above).

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.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

January 2004