Leyla Yunus’s speech on the hearing in the Council of Europe on April 9, 2019

Dr. Leyla Yunus’s speech on the joint hearing with the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) on April 9, 2019


Aliyev’s regime holds its power on cruel repressions and tortures
I would like to thank for invitation and for bringing the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan to spotlight. Many thanks to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for today’s hearing and thanks to Sunna Aevarsdottir for preparation of such important resolution.

Because of this event, I believe, on March 16, more than 50 political prisoners saw their long awaited freedom. But, unfortunately, 87 political prisoners still remain behind bars. It is very important to adopt this resolution, it might save lives and cause the release of the remaining 87 innocent people.

When, in January 2013, the deputies of PACE voted against the resolution prepared by Mr. Christopher Strasser, they literally turned on “the green light» to the most brutal repressions in Azerbaijan. All of us were arrested… In result, today there are not civil society, independent NGOs, independent mass media in Azerbaijan. There is no freedom of speech at all!Our Institute for Peace and Democracy was founded in Azerbaijan, in 1995, and for almost 25 years, we are working on problems of political prisoners and tortures in Azerbaijan. Problem in Azerbaijan with political prisoners is well-known. But for the last 2-3 years, we see not only political repressions, but also arrests, tortures, murder of citizens in different provinces of Azerbaijan.

From 1994, people regularly die after tortures in prisons, but in 2017-2019 the number of people dying from tortures has increased significantly. In months May-July 2017, more than 20 men died after tortures in Tartar region. We have detailed information about 7 people:
1. Mehman Telman oglu Huseynov, born in 1987, was arrested on May 7, 2017 in his own house, in Jamilli village of Tartar region. On May 16, his body was returned to his wife. The family was not allowed to bury Mehman Huseynov in the cemetery, because of new so called status of “an enemy and a traitor”.

2.  Sahavat Binnatov was arrested on May 7, 2017 in his house in Jamilli village of Tartar region. On May 17,  his body was returned to the family, but it was not allowed to bury him in the village cemetery.

3.   Colonel Saleh Charif oglu  Gafarov was arrested on May 4, 2017 in his own apartment in the village Kutkashen in Gabala district. On May 14, his body was returned to the family.

4.  Elchin Guliyev, resident of Tartar region was arrested on May 11, 2017. On May 18, his body was returned to the family.

5.  Lieutenant  Tamkin Nizamioglu, born in 1993, was arrested on May 12, 2017.  His body was returned to his mother village Darkand in Ordubad region (Nakchivan)  on May 21.
6. Soldier Dayndur Nuru oglu Azizli, born in 1995, was arrested on May 12, 2017 in Tartar region. On July 20, a police brought the coffin containing his body to his parents. Relatives managed to open the coffin and saw his body. His face was mutilated after brutal tortures.
7. Captain Suleyman Seyidaga oglu Kazymov, born in 1987 was arrested in the beginning of May 2017. On May 7, 2017 Captain S. Kazymov died from tortures at the military unit in Mingachevir city. Later, his relatives managed to see his disfigured – in result of tortures- body.

Colonel Saleh  Gafarov was tortured
and murdered in May 2017

Lieutenant Tamkin Niyazioglu
tortured and murdered
in May 2017

Capitan Sylejman Kazimov was tortured and  murdered in May 2017


Political prisoners regularly die from torture during investigation period. For example, Blogger Mehman Galandarov was murdered on April 28, 2017 in Baku pretrial detention facility #1 Kurdakhani.


Mehman Galandarov
murdered on 28th of April 2017 while imprsoned on politically motivated charges

Dayandur Azizli was tortured and
murdered in July 2017

Aliyev’s regime also is carrying out repressions by imitating the fight with Islamic terrorism. During months, July-August 2018, 62 people were arrested  and 6 were murdered. We have their names.

Today we have 87 political prisoners.

Political prisoners can be divided in 7 groups:
Group 1 consists of journalists and bloggers, 5 persons. This group includes so call
“prisoners of Facebook”.

Who are they? They are young men who criticise Ilham Aliyev’s policy on social networks, on Facebook, and as soon as they try to experience their freedom of speech on Facebook, when they post a status which criticize government’s policy, police appears in their flats and plants drug to them. Young men are then arrested on bogus accusation of drug trafficking. Which again proves, that there is no freedom of speech, freedom to express your opinion in Azerbaijan.

Group 2
consists of human rights defenders, 1 person

Group 3 consists of members of opposition parties and movements, 7 persons

Group 4 consists of victims of crimes in the Ministry of National Security, 3 persons. Who are they? In 2007, Ministry of national security initiated bogus case on so called preparation of a coup d’etat. In result, 11 people were arrested. One of them died under torture, and 10 received from 12 to 14 years in prison. This group is well known, by the name of political prisoner Said Dadashbeyli. Mr. Stefan Schennach met with Said. He knows this case. 7 people were released in 2018-2019.  But 3 of them are still behind bars.

Group 5 consists of peaceful believers, 56 persons.

This is the largest group in the last 10 years. They are tortured regularly. Just one horrible example:
Please look at this photo of paralyzed Abulfaz Bunyadov. On July 11, 2018 he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in Gobustan prison.

Group 6 consists of hostages, 1 person

Those are relatives of Ilham Aliyev critics – who live in immigration. Since they cannot be arrested in Europe, or USA, their relatives in Azerbaijan are taken as hostages and they are being arrested.

Group 7 consists of term of life imprisonment. It is also important to pay attention to this group. All 14 men in this group remain in the prison from 1993-1998.

New Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic includes the punishment of life imprisonment and it came to power in 2000. The old version of criminal code, before 2000, did not include punishment of life imprisonment, there was a death penalty and a maximum term of 15 years behind bars. Therefore, the sentence of death penalty of all who were sentenced before 2000, should’ve been replaced to maximum 15 years of imprisonment. They should’ve had new trials.

It was unlawful to replace death penalty to life imprisonment without trial and the court decision.

When Azerbaijan joined to Council of Europe in 2001, Azerbaijan took commitment to release all political prisoners. In 2001, our Institute for Peace and Democracy presented a list of political prisoners to the CoE experts. And  Council of Europe experts recognized these people as political prisoners. This list also included above- mentioned 14 people. All of them were recognized to be in prison for political motives. They are still in prison.

In this group were a father and son Vagif and Maqsud Huseynov. They were sentenced back in 1994.  I regularly met with Vagif’s wife and Maqsud’s mother. In 2012 Vagif died in prison…
It is important to demand freedom for this 14 people. They are not criminals. They served in the army and in special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and became victims of Heydar Aliyev’s fight for power.
Please, give attention at terrible Gobustan prison. Political prisoners, who stay in this horrible prison (well known form Soviet times) are subjected to tortures. During last 6 months,  Taleh Bagirov – leader of “Muslim Unity” movement , and a member of this movement Abbas Huseynov  were repeatedly tortured.  (In 2017, both were sentences for 20 years in prison).

The chairman of Islam party Movsum Samedov is also locked there.  Movsum Samedov and his brother were arrested after Movsum publicly criticized  Ilham Aliyev’s policy in January 2011.

It is also very important to pay attention to judges who sentence innocent people to long prison terms. Please pay attention to the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the National Security Service, who personally torture people, orders the tortures of political prisoners.

It is very important to introduce sanctions against these nonhumans. If 3-7 such nonhumans fall under the sanctions, others will be afraid to torture and kill.

During the years of the Aliyev rule, several hundred citizens died in prisons (in most cases from tortures). But none of the murderers were punished. Not a single murderer was punished. Moreover, when international organizations called for the punishment of these nonhumans, the dictator Ilham  Aliyev has repeatedly stated that they protect stability in Azerbaijan.

Just look on this faces and think how they kill people:


Afgan Niyatulla oglu Hajiyev, 
Judge, Baku Court on Grave Crimes


Mirgafar Seidov
chief of the Main Department of Baku city Police


Colonel Avtandil Agayev
Chief of the Gobustan prison

Azerbaijan authority does not fulfill, and ignores its commitments that it made while joining Council of Europe:
– There was commitment to release all political prisoners. There are always political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
– There was commitment to punish those officials of law enforcement agencies, who participate in tortures. No one is punished.

Without great support of international community my husband Arif and I would’ve died in prison.  We must save lives of citizens in Azerbaijan- who are locked behind bars on bogus charges, who are being tortured….
And for this, it is necessary to adopt resolution on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
There should not be any illusions in regards of pardon of 50 political prisoners. Conveyor of repressions is working: 50 persons are out, 60 will be arrested. Currently, lawsuits on arrestees in July-August 2018, on 62 citizens are being prepared. And on March 22, 2019, Anar Jabbarov, another activist of “Muslim Unity” movement was deported from Turkey and arrested in Azerbaijan on drug trafficking charges. Again tortures and no permission for lawyer.   Conveyor continues its work.

P.S.Bayram Mamedov was pardon 16 March and again arrested 30 March and again tortured (he told how he was beaten and tortured on the Appeal court hearing on April 2). He was tortured by Panah Hasan oglu Mikayilov police from Binagadi detention centre.  Again arrest, tortures just because he continued to criticize Ilham Aliyev…..

Dr. Leyla Yunus
Director of Institute for Peace and Democracy
Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor
Winner of International Theodore Hacker Award
Laureate of Polish Sergio Vieira de Mello Award
Winner of Battle of Crete Award
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought of the European Parliament Finalist 
E-mail: yunus.arif.leyla@gmail.com
Website: https://www.ipd-az.org
Skype: arif.yunusov1
Tel.: +31 611 43 59 90