ECHR judgment in case of journalists and activists from Azerbaijan
On 13 December 2018, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgment in the case of Mursaliyev and Others v. Azerbaijan. The Court found violations of Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 2 of Protocol 4 to the Convention. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights submitted an amicus curiae brief in this case.
In 2012-2016, 11 Azerbaijani citizens, mainly journalists and lawyers involved in the advocacy of human rights, were banned from leaving the country. The bans were issued by law enforcement authorities (without a court order) in different criminal proceedings in which the activists were interviewed as witnesses. The activists lodged complaints against the bans. In their complaints to national courts, the applicants asserted that Azerbaijani law does not provide for the imposition of a travel ban on witnesses in criminal proceedings and that the restriction of their right of movement was not legitimate. National courts have ruled that they did not have jurisdiction to deal with complaints about the legality of the imposed travel bans. I view of the above, the applicants brought proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that Azerbaijani authorities violated their right to free movement and deprived them of the right to an effective remedy. In a judgment made in December, the Court found that Azerbaijan had violated Article 13 ECHR (right to an effective remedy) and Article 2 of Protocol 4 to the Convention (right to free movement).
Amicus curiae brief
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights submitted an amicus curiae brief in this case, presenting to the Court the standards concerning the right to leave any country enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the brief, the HFHR also describes the broader context of the situation in Azerbaijan and the systematic suppression of civil society by the Azerbaijani government. The above context is relevant to this case, as the majority of applicants are independent journalists and human rights defenders, which means that they may be persecuted for their activism. The HFHR’s brief also focuses on the applicants’ status as witnesses and outlines factors that should be taken into account when assessing whether the restrictions imposed on the applicants are legitimate and necessary in a democratic society.
The HFHR amicus curiae brief may be accessed here.