This list has been compiled by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) on the basis of publicly available reports from international human rights organisations and information from partner lawyers in Azerbaijan.
In the years following the 2014 crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan and the criminal prosecution of NGO and human rights defenders, human rights lawyers who took up these and other ‘politically sensitive’ cases have been subjected to severe retaliation by the authorities, which has sometimes resulted in the suspension of their licences and even disbarment.
Disciplinary proceedings have been brought against human rights lawyers in response to their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression: for publicising human rights violations perpetrated against their clients in detention, or for disclosing instances of the abusive administration of justice in their clients’ cases. As a result, over a dozen Azerbaijani lawyers have been deprived of the opportunity to practise their profession, and over two dozen have been targeted by the Azerbaijani authorities since 2005.
In January 2020, in its first case relating to the disbarment of a lawyer in Azerbaijan, the European Court of Human Rights (European Court) found a violation of the right to a private life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) in the case of Elchin Namazov, who was disbarred in the absence of adequate procedural safeguards in disciplinary proceedings brought against him. The Court found that the domestic courts had failed to assess the proportionality of the sanction.
Khalid Bagirov is another prominent human rights lawyer who was first suspended in 2011 after he made comments about the suspicious death of his client in police custody. He was later permanently disbarred in 2015 for criticising Azerbaijan’s judicial system during a trial which concerned a domestic court’s failure to implement the European Court’s judgment in the case of Ilgar Mammadov, an opposition politician whose arrest was found to be politically motivated.
In June 2020, the European Court ruled that Azerbaijan’s suspension and disbarment of Bagirov was in breach of his freedom of expression (Article 10 of ECHR) and right to a private life. The Court ordered the Azerbaijani Government to ensure the “maximum possible reparation” for Khalid Bagirov, “and [that] they should put the applicant, as far as possible, in the position in which he had been before his disbarment.”
Tagged: American Bar Association, Azerbaijan, Canada, Conseil national des Barreaux, Day of the Endangered Lawyer, France, IBAHRI, IDHAE, Italy, Observatoire international des avocats en danger, The Netherlands, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Union internationale des avocats, USA