In Azerbaijan, the dissenters are subjected to arrest and imprisonment


Ruslan Izzatli

Analysis of violation of law during Ruslan Izzatli’s judicial proceeding

Baku City Khatai District Court

Case № 4(011)-251/2024 2 April 2024

Presiding judge: Sulhana Hajiyeva

Defendant: Ruslan Izzatli

Defenders: Rasul Jafarov, Bahruz Bayramov

Nahid Abbasli, an investigator from the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit within the Investigation and Inquiry Department of the Baku City Police Head Office; Emil Alizadeh, a Prosecutor from the Supervision Department for the Execution of Laws in the area of investigation, enquiry and operative-search activity within the internal affairs structures of the Baku City Prosecutor’s Office.

Ruslan Izzatli, born in 1989, began his political activity in the Umid Party. In 2012-2013, he served as a deputy chairman of the party.

In 2013, R. Izzatli was elected Chairman of the D18 Movement, in 2015 and 2020 he was registered as a candidate in the parliamentary elections.

In May 2020, he was sent for the compulsory military service and participated in the second Karabakh war, for what he was twice awarded.

In 2021, R. Izzatli left the post of D18 Movement Chairman and continued to pursue his political career independently.

On 7 December, 2023, he and other political activists founded an organisation under the name ” The Platform of the III Republic“.

In November 2023, there were arrests of journalists from the Abzas Media online publication and then employees of the Toplum TV online resource. On 6 March 2024, the police entered the Toplum TV office, where there were the founders of the Platform and employees of the Institute for Democratic Initiatives. Ruslan Izzatli was detained, but released the same evening.

On 8 March 2024, in the morning, R. Izzatli was again detained near the Baku City Khatai District Police Department. The same day, his house was searched and as a result, the police seized 4,700 euros. His wife and young son were locked in a room while the search was conducted.

Ruslan Izzatli was charged with committing an offence under the Article 206.3.2 (Smuggling committed on preliminary arrangement by group of persons) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic.

On 9 March 2024, the Baku City Khatai District Court issued an order: to satisfy the investigator’s petition on arrest and issue a preventive measure against Ali Zeynalov in the form of detention for a period of 4 months.

The defence considered the ruling unlawful and submitted an appeal to the Baku City Court of Appeal. On 15 March 2024, the Court issued a ruling to dismiss the defence’s appeal and upheld the Baku City Khatai District Court’s rulings from 9 March 2024.

The defence also applied to the Court with a motion to replace the measure of restraint in the form of arrest to house arrest.

On 2 April 2024, the Baku City Khatai District Court issued a ruling: to reject the defence’s motion to substitute the measure of restraint in the form of arrest to house arrest.


Commentary by expert lawyer:

The court verdict is unlawful and unjustified.

According to the Article 154.2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic, restrictive measures may be the following:

  • arrest;
  • house arrest;
  • bail;
  • restraining order;
  • personal surety;
  • surety offered by an organisation;
  • police supervision;
  • supervision;
  • military observation;
  • removal from office or position.

As can be seen, the strictest preventive measure is an arrest, i.e. a complete isolation from the society, severe deprivation of liberty. The preventive measure in the form of house arrest, though not accompanied by complete deprivation of liberty and detention of the accused in places of liberty but there are other serious restrictions: such as restriction of communication, leaving the place of residence without the relevant permission by the investigation authorities, restriction of making phone calls, use of the Internet, and so on.

The advantage of house arrest is that the accused person is not completely isolated from society and remains, as a rule, in his or her place of residence until the trial. This measure of restraint is more humanitarian and should be used in most cases concerning the criminal case initiated on the basis of offences classified as serious ones.

In the case of R. Izzatli, the house arrest could have been applied. At least, the Court had to consider an alternative preventive measure other than arrest.

The Article 155 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic stipulates the grounds for applying a preventive measure.  The list of grounds is rather limited and consists of the following provisions:

  • hidden from the prosecuting authority;
  • obstructed the normal course of the investigation or court proceedings by illegally influencing parties to the criminal proceedings, hiding material significant to the prosecution or engaging in falsification;
  • committed a further act provided for in criminal law or created a public threat;
  • failed to comply with a summons from the prosecuting authority, without good reason, or otherwise evaded criminal responsibility or punishment;
  • prevented execution of a court judgment.

The Court did not specify the specific grounds that could justify the use of the strictest preventive measure in the ruling on the arrest of R. Izzatli

Pursuant to the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Azerbaijan Republic “On judicial practice in cases involving applications for preventive measures in the form of arrest or house arrest” paragraph 1, dated 3 November, 2009, the attention of the Courts in considering applications for coercive measures must be drawn to the observance of the 28th Article of the AR Constitution, Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the provisions of the criminal procedure legislation and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Courts are obliged to bear in mind that arrest is the strictest preventive measure and therefore a formalistic approach is inadmissible in considering applications to restrict a detainee’s rights. They were also explained that, according to the European Court’s case law, as a rule, arrest is permissible when the public interest overrides the interests of an individual, i.e. if a person remains at large, it would create negative emotions in society and pose a danger to the public.

Paragraph 3, of the Decision stipulates that the Courts, when imposing a preventive measure in the form of confinement, should not just limit themselves to the formal enumeration of grounds set out in the Article 155 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic, instead they should examine the nature of each ground relating to a particular accused person and whether it is confirmed by the evidence in a criminal case. Here, the nature and social danger of the crime committed by an accused person, information characterising his/her personality, including age, marital status, type of activity, state of health and other relevant circumstances shall be taken into account.

One of the important points of the Decision is paragraph 4, stating that the Courts are obliged to verify the possibility of applying a non-arrest preventive measure provided for in the Article 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic; upon satisfaction of arrest applications, the inadmissibility of applying a non-arrest preventive measure must be justified.

Further, the Decision, paragraph 8, states that a Judge, when considering applications for a preventive measure in the form of arrest, has the right to request documents and evidence necessary to verify the grounds for such an application. The Courts do not determine an individual’s guilt, but rather solely verify the existence of procedural grounds for the imposition of a preventive measure, as well as the existence of primary evidence. The Courts rulings must indicate the set of evidence (to the required extent), an accused person’s clarifications, including assessments of their clarifications, which must be in line with the remarks in the court record; the court may not justify arrest orders with the evidence not reviewed in the course of the judicial proceedings.

The provisions of National Legislation prohibit arbitrariness. The prohibition of arbitrariness means that people cannot be deprived of their liberty on the basis of any discriminatory considerations.

Keeping a detainee at liberty is the rule, whereas detention should be considered an exception to that rule.

Unlike custodial sentences, an arrest order is based not so much on evidence as on a reasonable suspicion.

The Article 163.3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic states, that house arrest may be accompanied by application of the following measures, separately or where possible jointly:

  • prohibition of leaving one’s home at any time or at certain times;
  • prohibition of speaking on the telephone, sending mail or using other means of communication;
  • prohibition of contact with certain people and of receiving visits from anyone at home;
  • application of electronic monitoring devices and obligation to wear them and operate them

The investigating authority, and subsequently the Courts, could have applied the above-mentioned restrictions to R. Izzatli without his isolation from the society. The Court took into account neither his state of health (“need for surgical intervention”), nor his impeccable political activity, nor his authority in society, nor the presence of a young child.

If Ruslan Izzatli were at large, it wouldn’t create any negative emotions in the society.

Thus, the isolation of R. Izzatli from the society is not either legal or lawful, i.e. it does not comply with the domestic legislation and International Legal Norms.

The widespread arrests of journalists and civil society representatives are not legitimate, but, as evident from the judicial rulings on the arrests, are of a different nature, not stipulated by the provisions of domestic and International Law.

One-sided, single-minded, unfounded court rulings, lacking sufficient grounds to justify the arrests, have become a pervasive violation of one of the fundamental rights in a democratic society: the Right to Liberty and Personal Inviolability. This right, guaranteed by the Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic, Article 28, Article 14 of the AR Criminal Procedure Code and Article 5(1) of the European Convention, was grossly violated by the investigative bodies and Courts in relation to the political activist, Ruslan Izzatli. The Courts disregarded the Law provisions, the Basic Law of the country (Constitution), International Norms (European Convention and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), provisions of the Supreme Court Plenum Decision from 3 November 2009, as well as the ECHR practice.