Yunusov Family Safe From Interpol Extradition to Azerbaijan

Interpol will not arrest and deport Leyla Yunusova and her husband, Arif Yunusov, to Azerbaijan, Yunusov wrote on his Facebook page. 

“The Azerbaijani authorities' request for our arrest and forced deportation will be rejected. Thus, the question of our compulsory return with the help of Interpol is closed. But we are not going to finish our fight with this”, the Facebook statement reads. 

Yunusov published this post arrived after more than 20 human rights organisations, including  International Partnership for Human Rights, Fair Trials, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Frontline Defenders wrote a joint letter to the Interpol Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, asking Interpol to refuse any request from the Azerbaijani authorities to use the Interpol Information System against Leyla Yunusova and Arif Yunusov.

“We, the undersigned organisations call on INTERPOL, and all other relevant bodies and authorities to act with due diligence in accordance with INTERPOL’s constitution to prevent the misuse of INTERPOL alerts against Leyla Yunusova and Arif Yunusov, two prominent human rights defenders from Azerbaijan. The couple currently resides in exile in the Netherlands, where they were granted refugee status in 2016. Detailed information about their human rights activism can be found below. INTERPOL’s constitution, prohibits the misuse of its systems for political purposes and in ways that violate human rights”, the letter reads. 

According to the letter, on June 12, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), which legally represents the couple, has filed an official request to the Interpol to inquire into the existence of any alert made by  the Azerbaijani Government against Leyla and Arif Yunusov. 

Human rights defender Leyla Yunusova was arrested in Baku on 30 July 2014 on charges of treason, large-scale fraud, forgery, tax evasion and illegal business. A week later, on the 5th of August, her husband was arrested too and they were both placed on pretrial arrest. The arrests have been assessed as politically motivated. 

On August 2015, Leyla and Arif were convicted to 8.5 and 7 years in jail respectively and on December of the same year, the Baku Court of Appeal commuted the sentences to a release on probation for five years.

In April 2016, the couple was permitted to travel abroad in order to receive medical treatment and received political asylum in The Netherlands. 

Their judicial proceedings are still ongoing. In December 2016, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Baku Appeal Court in order to be re-examined and in May 2017 the couple was refused the possibility to participate in the proceedings via Skype. Consequently to that, the Baku Appeal Court ordered the couple to return to Azerbaijan in order to attend their court hearings. 

Given to the political nature of the case and the Azerbaijani low human rights record, the Interpol would violate its constitution if it would contribute to the deportation of the couple to Azerbaijan. 

Article 2 of the Interpol constitution in fact reads that the Interpol’s aims are

“To ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and in the spirit of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, the article states. 

In addition Article 3 says that

“It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”.