AZERBAIJAN: Conscientious objector given a one year prison sentence


War Resisters' International has learned that 19 year-old conscientious objector, Fakhraddin Mirzayev, has been sentenced to one years' imprisonment.

Fakhraddin, who is a Jehovah's Witness, was given a one-year prison sentence on 25 September by a court in Gyanja, and has lodged an appeal.

According to Forum 18, this is the first prosecution of a Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector in Azerbaijan for two years.

In January 2001, on joining the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan committed to pardoning all jailed conscientious objectors and introduce a substitute service. Whilst the constitution was amended to allow for substitute service, no legislation was adopted to allow and regulate provision for this service.

In August 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Committee again recommended to Azerbaijan "that a law exempting conscientious objectors from compulsory military service and providing for alternative civil service of equivalent length be adopted at an early date in compliance with article 18 of the Covenant and the Committee's General Comment No. 22".

On October 15 2012, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission adopted a Joint Opinion on Azerbaijan's Religion Law with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The Opinion noted Azerbaijan's failure to meet its Council of Europe obligation to introduce a substitute service.

The Opinion recommended the introduction of legislation "to expressly allow for alternative civilian service for those who refuse to perform military service owing to their religious (or non-religious conscientious) beliefsā€. In its response, the Azerbaijani government noted that Article 76 of Azerbaijan's Constitution notes the right to substitute service. However, as already stated, no legislation was adopted to allow and regulate provision for this service, so in practice this provision is not in place.

You can write a letter of protest to the Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev here. Please also send a protest email to the Azerbaijani embassy in your country. A list of these can be found here.

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Fakhraddin Mirzayev.

Hannah Brock,
War Resisters' International