We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Special Rapporteur on

the situation of human rights defenders; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion

and expression; Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and

of association and Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the

highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, pursuant to Human Rights

Council resolutions 52/4, 51/8, 52/9, 50/17 and 51/21.

In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s

Government information we have received concerning the alleged harassment and

arbitrary detention of human rights defender Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu and his wife in

Baku, Azerbaijan.

According to the information received:

Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu has allegedly been under surveillance by the Government

of Azerbaijan since 2013, after Azerbaijan joined the Extractive Industries

Transparency Initiative (EITI) and a broad NGO Coalition was formed inside

the country to take part in consultations on the generation and distribution of oil

and gas revenues. In 2013 and 2014, the government made several amendments

to legislation relating to NGOs. In total, 26 such changes were made, including

some which tightened regulations around registration and foreign funding. In

the summer of 2014, a wave of arrests of human rights defenders, based on

charges including tax evasion and illegal drug possession, swept the country.

Among those human rights defenders who were allegedly targeted by the

government were members of independent groups working to promote

transparency of public revenues in Azerbaijan.

In June 2014, the business account of the Economic Research Center (ERC) and

the personal bank account of Dr. Ibadoghlu were both frozen, and Dr. Ibadoghlu

was summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office for questioning as a witness

in a case against a number of local and foreign NGOs. According to the

information received, the government allegedly withdrew 85005 manat

(US $5000) from the ERC’s organizational bank account, which has still not

been returned.

On 12 May 2015, the offices of the ERC were searched by staff of the

prosecutor's office. Financial documents and accounting records of the Centre,



the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI Coalition), and the

National Budget Group were seized.,

A criminal case against Dr. Ibadoghlu was opened in 2015 and remains ongoing.

Dr. Ibadoghlu was charged with abuse of power, tax evasion, and illegal

business. The activity of the ERC between 2010 and 2015 was claimed to be

illegal because the organization failed to pay Value Added Tax (VAT), although

civil society organizations are exempt from paying VAT in Azerbaijan.

Approximately 20 other organizations were also included in the criminal case.

Dr. Ibadoghlu was then allegedly subject to a smear campaign where several

newspapers and online resources published potentially defamatory articles

alleging that he is a foreign agent.

In June 2018, Dr. Ibadoghlu lost his teaching position at the Azerbaijan State

University of Economics, allegedly as a direct result of his work as a human

rights defender.

On 23 July 2023, Dr. Ibadoghlu was traveling by car in Baku when he was

stopped and surrounded by vehicles, forcibly removed from his car by more than

20 individuals claiming to be government officials and beaten. Dr. Ibadoghlu

was charged with manufacturing and selling counterfeit money as part of an

organized group. He was initially taken to the Main Directorate for Combating

Organized Crime (MDCOC) in Baku.

Dr. Ibadoghlu is reportedly being held in the Kurdekhani pretrial detention

center outside of Baku. Family members were unsuccessful in delivering

toiletries, clothing, and other necessities to him on 25 July. In an initial court

decision in late July, Dr. Ibadoghlu was sentenced to 3 months and 26 days of

“preventive detention” while the investigation is ongoing. Dr. Ibadoghlu has

been able to meet with family members once since his imprisonment.

Dr. Ibadoghlu is reportedly being detained with five other detainees in a cell that

measures less than 20 square meters.

According to the information received Dr. Ibadoghlu’s health, already fragile

due to diabetes and high blood pressure, is at immediate risk as he has been

denied regular access to critical medication. He has also allegedly been denied

regular access to clean drinking water and has developed additional health


Gubad Ibadoghlu's lawyer has filed numerous unsuccessful appeals against the

decision by the court to detain him until his court date and has also been denied

requests for Dr. Ibadoghlu to be placed under house arrest rather than in prison.

The eyesight in Dr. Ibadoghlu’s left eye has deteriorated significantly since his

arrest. He already had a condition in his right eye causing blurry vision.

Without prejudging the accuracy of the above allegations, we wish to express

our serious concern in response to the arrest of Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, which appears to


be linked to his legitimate human rights work on promoting transparency and

democratic control of the gas and oil industries.

We are further concerned at what seems to be a pattern of harassment against

human rights defenders, including frequent detentions, harassment, interrogations,

restrictions on receiving grants, searches and confiscations, and travel bans of human

rights activists working in the field of transparency in the extractive industries.

The detention of human rights defenders is of serious concern. We also note that

human rights defenders with pre-existing health conditions are at increased risk of

serious illness in detention if not properly treated; this may violate their rights to life

and to health. We regret that other alternatives, such as house arrest, were not assessed

for Dr.Ibadoghlu’s case.

We remind your Excellency’s Government that the criminalization of the

legitimate defense of the human rights of others and exercising the right to freedom of

opinion and expression would be incompatible with international human rights law.

In connection with the above alleged facts and concerns, please refer to the

Annex on Reference to international human rights law attached to this letter which

cites international human rights instruments and standards relevant to these allegations.

We are issuing this appeal in order to safeguard the rights of the abovementioned individuals from irreparable harm and without prejudicing any eventual

legal determination.

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human

Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful

for your observations on the following matters:

1. Please provide any additional information and/or comment(s) you may

have on the above-mentioned allegations.

2. Please provide detailed information on the factual and legal bases for the

detention of Dr. Ibadoghlu in July 2023, and explain how these actions

comply with Azerbaijan’s obligations under International Human Rights


3. Please explain why other alternative measures, such as house arrest,

were not considered in case of Dr. Ibadoghlu, giving attention to his

deteriorating health condition.

4. Please provide information about the current health condition of

Dr. Ibadoglu in pre-trial detention. Please also provide information

about the measures taken to ensure his physical integrity and appropriate

access to continuous health care.

5. Please indicate what measures have been taken to ensure individuals,

including civil society leaders and human rights defenders, can exercise

their right to freedom of association and freedom of expression, free


from intimidation or persecution, and in line with international human

rights standards.

We would appreciate receiving a response within 60 days. Past this delay, this

communication and any response received from your Excellency’s Government will be

made public via the communications reporting website. They will also subsequently be

made available in the usual report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.

Further, we would like to inform your Excellency’s Government that after

having transmitted the information contained in the present communication to the

Government, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention may also transmit the case

through its regular procedure in order to render an opinion on whether the deprivation

of liberty was arbitrary or not. The present communication in no way prejudges any

opinion the Working Group may render. The Government is required to respond

separately to the allegation letter and the regular procedure.

While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to

halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the

investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the

accountability of any person(s) responsible for the alleged violations.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Mary Lawlor

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Matthew Gillett

Vice-Chair on communications of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Irene Khan

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion

and expression

Clement Nyaletsossi Voule

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Tlaleng Mofokeng

Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable

standard of physical and mental health



Reference to international human rights law

In connection with above alleged facts and concerns, we would like to draw the

attention of your Excellency’s Government to the following human rights standards.

We recall article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

(ICCPR), acceded to by Azerbaijan on 13 August 1992, which provides, that “Everyone

has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary

arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and

in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” Furthermore, we recall

that a deprivation of liberty may be arbitrary when it results from the peaceful exercise

of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 of the


We would like to recall that article 19 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to

opinion and expression. In the general comment 34, the Human Rights Committee

stated that States parties to the ICCPR are required to guarantee the right to freedom of

opinion and expression, including inter alia ‘political discourse, commentary on one’s

own and on public affairs, canvassing, discussion of human rights, journalism’, subject

only to admissible restrictions as well as the prohibition of propaganda for hatred and

incitement to hatred, violence and discrimination.

Restrictions on the right to freedom of expression must be compatible with the

requirements set out in article 19 (3), that is, they must be provided by law, pursue a

legitimate aim, and be necessary and proportionate. The State has the burden of proof

to demonstrate that any such restrictions are compatible with the Covenant. An attack

on a person because of the exercise of his or her freedom of opinion or expression,

including arbitrary arrest, torture, threats to life and killing, cannot be compatible with

article 19. (GC34 paragraph 23)

We also remind Your Excellency’s Government that article 22 of the ICCPR

protects the right to freedom of association, including the rights of everyone to associate

with others and to pursue common interests. Freedom of association is closely linked

to the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and is of fundamental

importance to the functioning of democratic societies. These rights can only be

restricted in very specific circumstances, where the restrictions serve a legitimate public

purpose as recognized by international standards and are necessary and proportionate

for achieving that purpose.

We would also like to refer to article 9.3 ICCPR which states, among others,

that it shall not be a general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.

The Human Rights Committee in its general comment 35, has interpreted that it should

not be the general practice to subject defendants to pretrial detention. Detention pending

trial must be based on an individualized determination that it is reasonable and

necessary taking into account all the circumstances, for such purposes as to prevent

flight, interference with evidence or the recurrence of crime (para. 38). According to

the same general comment (paragraph 17) and the jurisprudence of the Working Group


on Arbitrary Detention, arrest or detention of an individual as punishment for the

legitimate exercise of the rights guaranteed by the ICCPR, including freedom of opinion

and expression, is arbitrary. Further, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has

reiterated that a deprivation of liberty is arbitrary when it constitutes a violation of

international law on the grounds of discrimination based on birth, national, ethnic or

social origin, language, religion, economic condition, political or other opinion, gender,

sexual orientation, disability, or any other status, that aims towards or can result in

ignoring the equality of human beings. In this respect, the Working Group on Arbitrary

Detention has concluded that being a human rights defender is a protected status under

article 26 of the ICCPR.

We would like to further refer to ICCPR article 6 that protects the right to life.

The Human Rights Committee, in its general comment No. 36 (CCPR/C/GC/36)

establishes that this right concerns the entitlement to be free from acts and omissions

that are intended or may be expected to cause unnatural or premature death, as well as

to enjoy a life with dignity. This applies to all without any distinction, including persons

suspected or convicted for crimes (para. 3). Accordingly, States have the duty of care

to take any necessary measures to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their

liberty, including providing them with the necessary medical care and the appropriate

regular monitoring of their health (para. 25). States have the responsibility to take

appropriate measures to address conditions, such as the prevalence of threatening

diseases, that may directly threat life or prevent individuals from enjoying their right to

life with dignity.

In this connection, we would like to recall your Excellency’s Government’s

obligations under article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and

Cultural Rights, which Azerbaijan acceded to on 13 August 1992. Article 12 protects

the right to health and imposes the obligation on States to refrain from denying or

limiting equal access for all persons, including prisoners or detainees, to health

preventive, curative and palliative services (Committee on Economic, Social and

Cultural Rights, CESCR, general comment 14, para. 34).

Further, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

(“Mandela Rules”), adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly

(A/RES/70/175), establish States’ responsibility to provide healthcare for prisoners

(rules 24 to 35); to evaluate, promote and protect the physical health of detainees,

paying particular attention to prisoners with special health-care needs (rule 25(1)), and

ensure continuity of treatment and care (rule 24.2), as well as prompt access to medical

attention in urgent cases and to specialized treatment where needed (rule 27.1).

We would like to also refer your Excellency’s Government to the fundamental

principles set forth in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals,

Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human

Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, also known as the UN Declaration on Human

Rights Defenders. In particular, we would like to refer to articles 1 and 2 of the

Declaration which state that everyone has the right to promote and to strive for the

protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national

and international levels and that each State has a prime responsibility and duty to

protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Furthermore, we would also like to recall the following articles: - article 5 (a)

which establishes that for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and

fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with

others, at the national and international levels: to meet or assemble peacefully; -

article 6 (b) and c) which provide for the right to freely publish, impart or disseminate

to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental

freedoms; and to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law

and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to draw public

attention to those matters; - article 8, paragraph 1, which stipulates that everyone has

the right, individually and in association with others, to have effective access, on a nondiscriminatory basis, to participation in the government of his or her country and in the

conduct of public affairs.

We would like to recall that during his visit to Azerbaijan in 2016

(A/HRC/34/52/Add.3), the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights

Defenders noted that there are no specific policies or mechanisms to protect human

rights defenders from attacks, threats or harassment. He expressed concerns at the way

NGOs and human rights activism in general are projected, which leads to the

delegitimization of critical views and voices. On this occasion, the Special Rapporteur

recommended that the Government consider adopting national guidelines on the

protection and promotion of human rights defenders, followed by a concrete action plan

to strengthen the environment in which they operate (para. 97).