Azerbaijan: Rule 9.2 communication to the Committee of Ministers of the CoE (Mahmudov and Agazade group)

International Partnership for Human Rights filed a submission pursuant to Rule 9(2) of the Committee of Ministers’ Rules for the Supervision of the Execution of Judgments in respect of the Mahmudov and Agazade group v. Azerbaijan, consisting of three cases concerning imprisonment of journalists under criminal defamation charges: Mahmudov and Agazade v. Azerbaijan (Appl. no.35877/04), Fatullayev v. Azerbaijan (Appl. no.40984/07) and Tagiyev and Huseynov v. Azerbaijan (Appl. no.13274/08).

The three judgments in the Mahmudov and Agazade group concern violations of the right to freedom of expression of the applicant journalists resulting from their criminal conviction and imprisonment for insult and defamation; and, in the Fatullayev case, the arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation (incitement to violence, racial or religious hatred) leading to the applicant’s extended sentence (violations of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The Court found that the use of imprisonment as a sanction was unjustified under Article 10. The Fatullayev case also concerns violations of the right to an impartial tribunal (violation of Article 6 § 1) and the right to the presumption of innocence (violation of Article 6 § 2) due to public statements made by the public prosecutor.

In light of the upcoming examination of this group of cases by the CM at its next DH human rights meeting in September 2022, this submission provides comments on the Government’s most recent communication of 25 May 2021 to the CM concerning general measures, as well as updates on most relevant developments.

 It also includes the following recommendations to the Azeri Government:

  • Articles 147 (slander) and 148 (insult) of the Criminal Code should be repealed.
  • The Law on Media should be repealed based on the recommendations adopted by the Venice Commission at its 131st Plenary Session (Venice, 17-18 June 2022).
  • Further to the Law on Media (Article 14 in particular), Article 13-2.3 of the Law on Information, Informatisation, and Protection of Information, which provides for the same excessive requirements on content for “owners of information resources”, including media subjects and journalists, should be significantly reduced to meet the standards of Article 10 ECHR.
  • The Government of Azerbaijan should be asked to provide the following information: Statistics on warnings (issued under Article 22 of the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office) and administrative offences cases initiated by the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan against media subjects and social media users during 2020-2022; Statistics on domestic court decisions under Articles 147 and 148 of the Criminal Code covering the period 2020-2022.
  • The information should include the plaintiff’s requests and outcomes of such cases.