European Court of Human Rights Rules Against Azerbaijan on Soldier Suicide

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Azerbaijani government has failed to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Zakir Babayev, an Azerbaijani citizen who died during his military service.

Zakir Babayev died on November 14, 2009 from a gunshot wound while serving as a sniper in the Gadabay region, located in the North-West of Azerbaijan along the border with Armenia.

While Azerbaijani authorities assert that Babayev committed suicide, the father of the victim believes that his son committed suicide as a result of ill-treatment while serving in the army and that the State did not protect him.

The case was reopened several times in Azerbaijan at the request of Babayev and eventually permanently closed when the reason behind Babayev’s death was supposed to be depression.

Malik Seyfal oglu Babayev lodged a complaint at the ECHR on on May 2, 2011. The court has examined the case under Article 2 of the Convention, which provides for the right to life.

“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law”, the Article reads.

After examining the case the court concluded that the investigation into the death of Babayev was not adequate. The investigation was not conducted in a timely matter and those who investigated the crime scene belong to the same military unity of the victim, which makes the investigation impartial.

Moreover, the prosecuting authorities failed to secure all the evidence.

“The Court concludes that the domestic authorities failed to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the applicant’s son. It accordingly holds that there has been a violation of Article 2 under its procedural limb”, the court statement reads.

The State will now have to compensate Malik Seyfal oglu Babayev with 15,000 euros as non-pecuniary damage.

“The Court considers that the applicant has suffered non-pecuniary damage for which he cannot be compensated solely by the finding of a violation and that compensation should thus be awarded. Making its assessment on an equitable basis, as required by Article 41 of the Convention, the Court awards the applicant the sum of EUR 15,000 under this head, plus any tax that may be chargeable on this amount”, the statement reads.

However, the court ruled against Malik Seyfal oglu Babayev’s complaint regarding the causes of the death of his son.

“In the present case there were no indications that Z.B. was suicidal and that the domestic authorities knew or ought to have known at the time of the existence of a real and immediate risk that the applicant’s son would commit suicide. For those reasons, the Court finds that the present case does not disclose any appearance of a failure on behalf of the respondent State to protect the right to life of the applicant’s son as required by Article 2 of the Convention”, the statement says.

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