Country report and updates: Azerbaijan
This article was first published on the Forum 18 website on 16th December 2022.
On 22 September, a Goranboy court jailed 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness Seymur Mammadov for nine months for refusing compulsory military service on conscientious grounds. On 25 July – two days after his 18th birthday – officers seized conscientious objector Royal Karimov and forcibly took him to a military unit in Ganca, where he is still held.
On 7 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a decision that Azerbaijan had violated the human rights of two Jehovah's Witness young men, Emil Mehdiyev and Vahid Abilov, who had been convicted in 2018 for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience.
The latest issue of our newsletter CO Update is out! In this issue, you'll find stories on conscientious objection and conscription from Ukraine,Turkey, Eritrea, Germany, USA, Azerbaijan, Thailand, among others.
Ruling party deputy Siyavush Novruzov told parliament on 30 March that an Alternative Service Law should be adopted. Parliament's Defence Committee is handling this, he told Forum 18. The government has not made public any draft. Azerbaijan committed to the Council of Europe to have alternative service by 2003 but failed to meet its obligation.
18-year-old Emil Mehdiyev repeatedly expressed willingness to perform a civilian alternative to compulsory military service. Instead, he was given a criminal conviction, a one-year suspended prison term, and will be under probation for one year. Seven similar criminal cases against other young men are with Prosecutor's Offices.
Azerbaijan's two known imprisoned conscientious objectors – both Jehovah's Witnesses - have been freed as part of a prisoner amnesty to mark what would have been the late President Heydar Aliev's 90th birthday. Of the two known imprisoned conscientious objectors, Fakhraddin Mirzayev was amnestied on 22 May after eight months' imprisonment and Kamran Mirzayev (no relation) was amnestied on 20 June after three months' imprisonment.
On 2 February 2012, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, demanded that the right to conscientious objection to military service should be guaranteed in all parts of Europe. In his blog post, he stated:
"People should not be imprisoned when their religious or other convictions prevent them from doing military service. Instead they should be offered a genuinely civilian alternative. This is now the established European standard, respected in most countries – but there are some unfortunate exceptions."
In August 2009, Azerbaijan has again imprisoned a conscientious objector. On 10 August 2009, conscientious objector Mushfiq Mammedov was detained, and sentenced only one day later, on charges of evading military service (article 321.1). Mushfiq Mammedov is reportedly being held in the Kurdakhani isolation center and has not been given a lawyer. He was once detained in 2006 and given a six-month suspended prison term on the same charges.
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
13 – 31 July 2009
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 40 OF THE COVENANT
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee
3 August 2009
14. The Committee remains concerned that no legal provision regulates the status of conscientious objectors to military service (art. 18).