The ECHR in the case of “Rashad Khasanov and others v. Azerbaijan” came to a conclusion on violation of Art. 5 (Right to liberty and security) and Art. 18 (Limitations on the application of human rights restrictions) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
According to ECHR. Ukrainian Aspect, activists were arrested on charges of possession of drugs and Molotov cocktails, L&B reports. They were also accused of planning incitement to violence and unrest. The activists have unsuccessfully appealed against decisions on detention. They also argued for politically motivated allegations.
The court in Strasbourg has established at least four (sufficient) signs of political persecution of the applicants as representatives of the opposition:
- Hasty public statements of officials on evaluation (qualification) of events that are being investigated by law enforcement agencies. The ECtHR drew attention to the fact that on the very next day after the arrest of the activists, the Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a public statement, which in particular contained the statement that “recently some radical destructive forces made illegal attempts to undermine the socio-political stability established in the country “. In this statement, according to the judges of the European Court, there is the focus of law enforcement agencies on the public organization, namely attempts to establish contact with the activities of this organization from the launch of the criminal proceedings initiated in connection with the detection of narcotic substances and twenty-two Molotov cocktails in the apartments of the two applicants.
- Actual discrediting (unprovable public evaluation of activities) of the opposition organization. A few days before the arrest of activists, representatives of the prosecutor’s office described the activities of the public organization as illegal without any grounds or evidence. In this regard, the Court noted that the Prosecutor’s Offices intended to portray the organization and its members as “destructive forces” and as the organization “carrying out” illegal activities, referring solely to the fact that drug substances and Molotov cocktails were found in the apartments of its two members. However, the case file does not show that the Prosecutor’s Offices had objective information that caused suspicion about the public organization and its board members at the time of submission these allegations.
- Diminishing the value and actual attitude towards the opposition. Representatives of the state claimed to the ECtHR that detainees were not opposition leaders; therefore the criminal proceedings were not politically motivated. However, the judges in Strasbourg, as indisputable, recognized the fact that the applicants were activists and members of the board of the public organization that was one of the most active youth movements in the country and stood behind many protests against the government. In addition, the ECHR drew attention to the timing of the opening of criminal proceedings against the applicants after a series of demonstrations against the government, in which members of the organization took an active part.
- A special attitude to the investigation. The Court noted that the Government representative’s arguments that the applicants had been arrested and detained solely for the purpose of investigating criminal offenses allegedly committed by them contradicted the special attitude of law enforcement agencies towards this case. Thus, despite the fact that, according to the national law, the investigation of the criminal case had to be carried out by the Police, in this case the investigation was conducted by the Department of Grave Crimes of the General Prosecutor’s Office with the involvement of the Ministry of National Security.
According to the ECHR, the combination of the above mentioned facts and circumstances, together with the latest reports of international human rights organizations on suppressing civil society in the country sufficiently indicates that the actual purpose of the appealed measures was to compel the applicants to remain silent and punish for their active social and political activities and engagement in the public organization.