The UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) is in the midst of discussing Azerbaijan’s compliance with the Convention against Torture. The UN anti-torture body gathered today to review Azerbaijan’s fourth periodic report about its implementation of CAT. The deliberations will continue on Thursday.
Ahead of today’s discussions, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) submitted a joint report to the UNCAT calling for holding the Azerbaijani authorities to account for the arbitrary detention of leading anti-torture activists.
“We are concerned over the safety of our colleagues and members. We fear the return of patterns suggesting a clear intention not only to arbitrarily detain but to break human rights defenders in prison,”
OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “The attempted logic of ‘no defender’ – ‘no torture’ is a greatly alarming defying truth and justice. The ‘no defender’ – no torture’ approach also questions the very integrity of the reporting process under the UN Convention Against Torture.”
According to the press release published on the IPHR website today, both organizations informed the UNCAT about the conditions, including in the detention facilities under the Ministry of National Security where prisoners are held in almost complete isolation. The continuous existence of such detention, almost two decades after the start of prison reforms in Azerbaijan, is unacceptable and in violation of international human rights standards, according to the OMCT and IPHR.
Human rights defenders incarcerated in Azerbaijan suffer from serious health conditions. Meanwhile, the Ombudsman Office and its National Preventive Mechanism, whose establishment the international community had supported over the last decade have largely justified government policies against human rights defenders, according to the IPHR press release.
“The international community has invested a great deal into the setting up of National Preventive Mechanisms and Ombudsman Institutions, mandated to monitor places of detention and to prevent torture. In Azerbaijan, these mechanisms are completely failing. It is time that these institutions live up to their expectation and assume their responsibility. Ultimately, without any credible civil society voice left we have to assume that whatever is known today about custody, detention and ill-treatment is only a glimpse of a tip of the iceberg,” said IPHR Director Brigitte Dufour.
Yesterday, the two NGOs released an alternative
to the UNCAT, which was “intended to provide information and analysis of the [Azerbaijani] government’s abuse of its criminal legal system as well as its use of torture and other ill-treatment to break and destroy human rights defenders for their human rights.”