Litigation

Huseynov v. Azerbaijan

Court
European Court of Human Rights
Country
Azerbaijan
Status
Active
Case Lawyer

Azerbaijan’s Use of Deprivation of Citizenship to Silence Critics

Emin Huseynov, who now lives in exile in Switzerland, is the director and cofounder of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), which was set up in 2006 in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, to protect press freedom and provide independent online reporting. Mr. Huzeynov is asking the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to rule that he has been wrongly stripped of his citizenship by Azerbaijan’s government. With the support of lawyers from the Open Society Justice Initiative, Mr. Huseynov filed a complaint with the ECHR arising from events that occurred in the summer of 2014, when official repression of government critics intensified in Azerbaijan. Human rights advocates Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Intigam Aliyev were arrested at that time. Fearful of his own imminent arrest, Mr. Huseynov sought refuge in the Swiss Embassy in Baku in August 2014.

Mr. Huseynov spent 10 months in the embassy, mostly confined to a single room and unable to leave without fear of dentition. He was largely isolated from contact with his friends or family during this time. He also suffered from continuing health problems resulting from physical injuries sustained at the hands of Azerbaijan’s policy in 2003 and 2008. After negotiations between the Swiss foreign ministry and Azerbaijan, the government allowed Mr. Huseynov to be flown out of the country on June 13, 2015, on the Swiss foreign minister’s plane. Prior to his departure, Mr. Huseynov was required to renounce his Azerbaijani nationality in a declaration, made under duress. Azerbaijan has used the declaration as proof to revoke Mr. Huseynov’s citizenship, an action that rendered him stateless.  

In his court application, Huseynov asserts that the deprivation of his citizenship violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (inhuman or degrading treatment) as well as Article 8 (respect for private life), Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 13 (lack of an effective remedy). 

Facts

Emin Huseynov was born in 1979 in Azerbaijan. He is a reporter and human rights activist. Huseynov, an ardent critic of authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev, who came to power in 2003, has been targeted by the Azerbaijani government in the past. In 2003 and 2008 he was beaten by police for his opposition to Azerbaijan’s government. In 2008, Mr. Huseynov received a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights that the Azerbaijani government violated his Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment and lack of effective investigation), Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly) rights. The case concerned the police’s mistreatment of Mr. Huseynov when he was arrested at a private café in Baku during a private party. Mr. Huseynov was later hospitalized, following his release from police custody, and placed in intensive care. Mr. Huseynov suffers from continuing health problems from the injuries sustained by police in 2003 and 2008.

During an unprecedented crackdown on civil society, Mr. Huseynov was forced into hiding in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2014. Mr. Huseynov was charged by Azerbaijani authorities with illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion, charges that has been widely seen as retaliatory for his opposition activities. Mr. Huseynov heads the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), a group that has repeatedly accused the Azerbaijani government of restricting freedom of speech.

After 10 months in hiding, mostly in a confined single room of 17 square meters and unable to leave for fear of detention, in the Swiss Embassy in Baku, Mr. Huseynov was flown out of Azerbaijan on the Swiss Foreign Minister’s private plane. Following lengthy negotiations between the Swiss foreign ministry and the Azerbaijani government, it was agreed that Mr. Huseynov could be flown out of the country on June 13, 2015. Prior to Mr. Huseynov’s departure he was required to renounce his nationality. Based on this declaration, made under duress, the Azerbaijani authorities have declared a revocation of Mr. Huseynov’s citizenship, rending him stateless.

Mr. Huseynov’s ordeal reflects an escalating and systematic crackdown on free speech, expression, and press freedom. Since President Ilham Aliyev’s election to a third term in October 2013, an all-out campaign has been launched to silence and punish bloggers, lawyers, journalists, and opposition figures who support human rights and criticize the regime. Mr. Huseynov’s younger brother, Mehman, who is also a journalist, has also experienced legal action and retaliation including a prevention from travel since 2013, seizure of his identity documents since December 2014, and other threats. Mehman Huseynov was stopped and interrogated on November 10, 2014, at Baku airport and later released. Most recently, on March 3, 2017, Mehman Huseynov was arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment on defamation charges. 

Open Society Justice Initiative Involvement

The Justice Initiative is representing Mr. Huseynov in his application to the ECHR.

Arguments

The Open Society Justice Initiative argued that his arbitrary deprivation of nationality and effective expulsion from Azerbaijan amounted to a violation of his right to private and family life. Because the deprivation stemmed from retaliation for his reporting and civic activism it violated his right to freedom of expression. And finally, these actions amounted to ill-treatment in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Inhuman and Degrading Treatment. The arbitrary deprivation of nationality and expulsion from Azerbaijan violated Mr. Huseynov’s Article 3 rights (freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment).

Respect for Private Life. Arbitrary deprivation of nationality also violated Mr. Huseynov’s Article 8 rights (right to private and family life) because it restricted his ability to see, maintain, and communicate with his family

Freedom of Expression. Because the deprivation of nationality and expulsion stemmed from a retaliatory act in response to Mr. Huseynov’s reporting and civic duty, Azerbaijan violated his Article 10 rights (freedom of expression). 

December 18, 2015

Justice Initiative, representing Mr. Huseynov, filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights. 

December 16, 2015

The Secretary of the Council of Europe initiated an investigation into the developments in Azerbaijan’s human rights record.

June 15, 2015

Huseynov fled Azerbaijan with the help of the Swiss foreign ministry.

August 2014

Mr. Huseynov went into hiding following the crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan.

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