Thank you very much that you have accepted the invitation and come today here to listen to the report on the situation with human rights inAzerbaijan. It is of paramount importance that namely you as representatives of authoritative international human rights organizations have information on realities in the country likeAzerbaijan. TheRepublicofAzerbaijanis a member of the OSCE. The country entered the Council of Europe in 2001 and is engaged in the European Union programs “Eastern Partnership” and “European Neighborhood Policy”.
In 2003 for the first time in the post-Soviet space the power inAzerbaijanwas hereditably handed over. Ilham Aliyev, son of the ceased president Heydar Aliyev, took charge of the country. In March 2009 the Constitution was amended according to which Ilham Aliyev may be elected life president.
There is imitation of democratic reforms inAzerbaijan; all fundamental rights and freedoms are being trampled down. To be brief:
All elections in theRepublicofAzerbaijan(presidential, parliamentary and municipal) are totally rigged. The citizens are deprived of the right of choice. Peaceful rallies of citizens to protest rigged elections are severely dispersed by the police; civil society and opposition activists are sentenced to different terms on false charges. There is lack of freedom of assembly inAzerbaijan. The last sanctioned rally took place in November 2005. Citizens fail to defend their rights in courts as the judiciary is completely dependent on the executive. As a result,Azerbaijanhas constant political prisoners and prisoners of conscience acknowledged by the Amnesty International. The number of political prisoners has varied from 40 to 80 over past five years.
Citizens ofAzerbaijanare not protected against torture. According to findings of our monitoring, every year starting from 2006 in average 10 people die of torture in police stations and prisons. Every year over 150 people undergo torture and different physical abuse. Despite the media publication of names of torture victims and sufferers, names of police officers who tortured people, appeals of their relatives to courts, none of law-enforcement officers has been prosecuted under the article of the Criminal Code on application of torture. Nobody has been punished. The freedom of speech and thought is extremely restricted inAzerbaijan. As a result, journalists, bloggers, civil society activists are being sentenced.
The violation of the property right has flooded the country in 2009-2011, especially its capitalBaku, accompanied with unlawful demolition of houses and apartments of citizens.
The Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic (hereinafter as CAR) secures the right of property. Article 13 of CAR reads, “The property in theAzerbaijanRepublic shall be inviolable and protected by the State”. Article 29 of CAR reads, “No one shall be dispossessed without the decision of court. The alienation of the property for the State needs shall be allowed only upon preliminary fair reimbursement of its value”.
The Civil and Housing Codes of AR secure the right of property. Article 157.9 of the AR Civil Code (hereinafter as ARCC) reads, “the property can be alienated by the state when required so by state needs and only in cases permitted by law based on decisions of Cabinet of Ministers for the purpose of construction of roads and other communication lines, location of a frontier zone or construction of defense facilities”.
A relevant decision of the Cabinet of Ministers shall be entered into the State Register of Immovable Property. . Article 31 of the Housing Code of AR secures the right to property.
I have cited these provisions of the national law to stress that all the facts of demolition of houses inBakupoint to outrage of law.
In 2009-2011 about 400 apartment houses were knocked down in the historical center of the capital. As a consequence, over 20.000 people lost their apartments.
How does all this happen?
One fine day a citizen receives by mail or a policeman brings to him the so-called notification. Citizens brought hundreds of such notifications to the IPD. I will stay on examples of the notifications received by citizen Natiq Agarahim oglu Guliyev residing atapartment2, house 13, dead-end ofMirza Aga Aliyev street. The chosen example is typical.
Notification No 1 received on February 28, 2011
For the attention of Natiq Agarahim oglu Guliyev!
With a view to ensuring that the General Layout of Baku City to construct a park-garden complex is executed based on the Ordinance No 76 dated February 16, 2011 and issued by Baku City Executive Chief the eviction is being carried out from residential and non-residential premises existing in the territory your apartment is located.
Based on Clause 2 hereunder you will be given a renovated apartment inBakuinstead which is equal to the square area of your apartment.
You are kindly requested to urgently apply to the Resettlement Board Headquarters with all necessary documents for the apartment. Please be advised that in case you do not apply during two weeks, all necessary measures will be taken in accordance with the law.
The questions concerning the above notification:
1) When and who approved the General Layout ofBakucity? Baku Why is there lack of any information on the existence of the plan and construction of the park-garden complex?
2) Where exactly is the demolition of houses planned? How many houses are planned to knock down: two hundred or five thousand?
3) According to the law of AR, Chief of Baku City Executive Authority is not entitled to issue an order to evict citizens or alienate their owned apartments.
4) Direct threat: “… in case you do not apply during two weeks, all necessary measures will be taken in accordance with the law”. According to which law? What are these “necessary measures”?!
5) What is the composition of the Resettlement Board? Who does it represent?
Early in March Guliyev received the second notification.
For the attention of Natiq Agarahim oglu Guliyev!
This is to inform you again that with a view to ensuring that the General Layout of Baku City to construct a park-garden complex is executed based on the Ordinance No 76 dated February 16, 2011 and issued by Baku City Executive Chief, the eviction is being carried out from residential and non-residential premises existing in the territory your apartment is located.
Based on Clause 2 hereunder you will be given a renovated apartment (130m2) in Baku instead of your apartment which is equal to the square area of your apartment (140.8m2).
You are kindly requested to urgently apply to the Resettlement Board Headquarters with all necessary documents for the apartment. In case you fail to apply during one week, the apartment offered will be fully renovated and officially registered.
The questions concerning the second notification:
Where do they want to evict the citizen from the city center? Based on which law?
How is it possible to “officially register” the property of the owner without his consent his consent?!
And in conclusion, Notification No 03 received on March 18.
For the attention of Natiq Agarahim oglu Guliyev!
In view of the demolition of the house, you are kindly requested to apply to the Resettlement Board.
It is noteworthy to mention the address of the Resettlement Board: no building, no street, no affiliation to any state agency. They just put a trailer behind the concert palace! Two people speak with citizens in this wooden hut:
1) Yusif Gambarov, Head of Department with State Property Committee
2) Zulfaly Ismaylov, Head of Secretariat ofBakuCityExecutive Authority.
They inform citizens that those with apartments exceeding 60m2 must move to apartment offered on the outskirts of the city; those with apartments less than 60m2 will be allocated AZN 1.000 – 1.500 per square meter of living space (market value of 1m2 in this part of the city is AZN 3.000-10.000)
(€ 1 = AZN 1.1042)
The compensation will not allow families with small apartments to even buy a new one. There is no way but to be homeless … Of course, they refused to abandon their premises.
Citizens who resided in two or three-storey houses built by them over past years were denied the compensation reasoning that the owners of such houses will be compensated only for the first floor. They, too, refused to abandon their houses.
What happened to those refusing to move from and sell their houses in 2010?
The authorities constantly exercised ingenuity. The businessman and owner of three-storey beautiful house atShamsi Badalbeyli Streetwas clearly told that he would lose all his business if did not agree to sell his expensive house at the sum 6 times less its real value. The owner of a small house with a green yard was threatened with arrest of his son on false charges, for example, hooliganism. (I myself spoke with these people).
However, there were people who did not have such vulnerable points (single women, pensioners and others). How did the authorities treat them? How did the authorities confiscate apartments they and their forefathers lived all their lives long?
I will bring to your attention one of the numerous police operations.
On November 19, 2010, at around 6 early morning, the police cordoned off the block atFuzuli streetand blocked it. Nobody (relatives, journalists, emergency doctors) was allowed to the surrounded houses. People started breaking doors of citizens’ apartments with axes and electric saws residing at House 58,Fuzuli Street(a sample of architecture). Having broken open the doors, the police dragged the residents out, beat them and took to Police Station 22 of Nasimi District of Baku. Most of them were women who suffered physical and psychological abuse. One of them, diabetic, was saved by other residents from coma insisting his release for insulin injection. The residents were unlawfully detained in the Police Station for 24 and more hours. During their detention their property was stolen and completely taken out. After release they were not able to find their property. They were told that their furniture had been piled somewhere out of the city. During their detention their apartments and houses were partially knocked down. The residents had to stay with their relatives or even outside.
Having destroyed the property and apartments of the citizens the police and executive officials forced them to conclude a sale contract with a certain R.G.Kazimov to sell their apartments. On January 27, 2011 R.Kazimov purchased an apartment of N.A.Khalygova (apt.51, house 58,Fuzuli Street) for AZN 42.750 based on Contract No 0233758. The very apartment that had been broken and ransacked by the police on November 19, 2010 (the video shooting is available).
Who is Kazimov? Why are residents forced to sell him their houses and apartments? Who determined the compensatory amount?
We have an interesting document – Ordinance No 511 dated September 24, 2008 issued by Chief of Baku City Executive Authority. The ordinance signed by Chief H.Abutalybov reads,
“…it is decided to authorize a physical person Rufan Gabil oglu Kazimov to conduct all negotiations with residents of the specified houses and conclude contracts with them.
In view of above and based on the letter issued by the Executive Authority of Baku City on implementation of resettlement of the residents of the district as specified, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic appropriated AZN 5 (five) million at the initial stage. The amount was transferred to the account of an individual Rufan Gabil oglu Kazimov”.
The full text of the ordinance is enclosed.
The outrageous example of large-scale financial offences is the transfer of AZN five million by SOCAR to the account of Rufan Kazimov. Five million, the amount only for the initial stage!
After Rovnaq Abdullayev, SOCAR President, had realized responsibility for transfer of this huge amount to the account of a certain Rufan Kazimov, SOCAR stopped the money transfer to Kazimov’s account and started the transfer to the accounts of Baku City Executive Authority.
Afterwards, not only SOCAR but also State property Committee, Tax Ministry and other ministries and agencies transferred multi-million amounts from their bank accounts to the account of Baku City Executive Authority. The money is transferred further from the bank account of the executive authority to the private account of Kazimov. He pays this money out to the citizens and concludes sale contracts with them.
Following our numerous articles in the media on the violated property right, financial offences of public officials on March 02, 2011 I was invited to Baku City Mayor’s Office. My conversation with Chief of Baku City Executive Authority Mr. Hajibala Abutalybov lasted from 14.00 to 16.12 p.m.
I recorded our conversation and publicized it in Russian and Azerbaijani in the national media and put it on facebook.
To sum up our two-hour-dialogue, in reply to all my demands to show the decision of the AR Cabinet of Ministers, if available, to demolish hundreds of houses in the city center, and to make it publicly available the amount appropriate from the state budget for these demolitions, new construction, etc. Mr.Abutalybov stated that back in Soviet times there was a plan to lay out a garden in this part of the city. Now he is implementing this Soviet plan, and there is no point speaking about law and human rights. According to Abutalybov, such a beautiful city asPetersburgwas erected by Peter 1 on bones of millions of people. Today many admire the city and nobody reproaches Peter 1 for the ruined lives…
On February 10, 2011 President Ilham Aliyev addressed to citizens of the country, “We must modernize our country and bring it up to the level of developed nations in all respects – in terms of political and economic reforms. We should tighten the public control in our country …I request that all citizens of Azerbaijan inform the Presidential Administration and other relevant bodies, local executive authority about all unpalatable facts, all kinds of unfairness, unreasonable demands, to urgently eliminate these blunders and this evil”.
On February 14taking up the CALL of THE PRESIDENT we submitted all collected materials on violation of the property right, police arbitrariness, and financial offences to the Presidential Administration and copies thereof to:
Mr. Ramiz Mehdiyev, Chair of State Commission to Fight Corruption
Mr. Ramil Usubov, Internal Minister
Mr. Ramiz Rzayev, Chair of Supreme Court
Our appeal to the President sought only media publicizing the appeal and all other supporting documents. Sure, no reply came, but pressure against citizens whose houses were anonymously decided to be knocked down is increasing from day to day.
There is no official information on the initiator of the demolition, construction of the park, and plan of the park. Nobody knows if his house is subject to demolition or not!
In 2010 a woman-resident of Fuzuli street married to a British national and left for London together with him for some months leaving her apartment just locked in the three-storey building. After return toBakuthey saw the knocked down house and apartment with no belongings in sight ….
The people are overwhelmed with hearsay. According to them, the territory for the park was designed for the park as far back as 2010. Now someone decided to knock down buildings in adjacent streets. Instead of the houses being knocked down, the ruling clan or clans (probably by the Pashayev family of first lady or businessman Agalarov, father-in-law of the President or others) will erect multi-storey hotels, business centers, entertainment centers, premium residences. The streets where the demolished houses are located are the most central part of the city with very expensive land.
Residents of these streets are being exposed to daily violence. The people are very frightened.
Can a citizen defend his/her rights in court?
The citizens of deprived of the right to fair trial; judges demonstrate their full dependence on the executive. I can refer to tens of examples. I will bring one.
Early April 2010 ex-MP Hajibala Azimov (residing at 62, Topchibashev str.) brought an action to Nasimi District Court to demand elimination of obstacles to exercise the right to property. Azimov was demanded to sell his house at the price several times cheaper its market value; he was frightened with demolition of the house. In order to protect his rights father of a big family Azimov in his legal action lawfully demanded a court decision to ban demolition of House No. 62 atTopchibashev Street. There is NO decision of any of authorized state agencies (Cabinet of Ministers) to demolish the house!!!
Nevertheless, houses are being illegally knocked down and residents driven to streets. For that reason Azimov needed urgently the court decision. As after illegal demolition of the property, the execution of the fair court decision is absolutely impossible. There will be no house!!!
According to AR Civil Procedural Code, such appeals shall be considered without delay. However, Nasimi District Court judge Khumar Mardanova dismissed the action.
Afterwards, judges ofNasimi Courtturned the case of Hajibala Azimov into a football to pass it onto each other, to the Court of Appeals and back to Nasimi District Court.
The court did not pass a legal decision in November 2010 when the authorities began the unlawful demolition of the house. H. Azimov applied in writing to Judge Khumar Afat gyzy Mardanova demanding a decision to ban demolition of House 62 (a sample of architecture) according to Ordinance No 132 of the AR Cabinet of Ministers dated 2001.
Judge Mardanova refused reasoning that the application of H. Azimov “is merely his own speculation that the house might be knocked down”!!! Three days after, they began demolishing the house, and law-obedient citizen Hajibala Azimov anew applied to court with convincing facts on the illegal demolition of the house. However, judge Mardanova did not want any longer to take the trouble answering his actions and statements. Azimov challenged Judge Mardanova. The challenge was not accepted. Mardanova was tasked to rule lawlessness against Azimov
Azimov’s next action to Nasimi District Court was brought a day before the demolition of his own apartment. However, Mardanova kept silent… The house was knocked down, Azimov and other residents of the house were driven out to streets. Ex-MP Hajibala Azimov did his best and necessary to defend his right to his apartment, property and health under the current legislation. He went to the Law…
For the time being Azimov rents an apartment and fights for a decision of high court instances in order to recourse then to the European Court of Human Rights.
Those who refused very tiny compensation for their houses will have difficulties concluding the sale project with Kazimov after their houses were demolished and receiving this small money.
Citizens went to court also with regard to police arbitrariness, illegal intrusion into their apartments, pillage of the property, detention in police stations. However, no court including the Supreme Court satisfied these suits. IPD is tracking up all these legal trials.
We, representatives of the civil society, are not able with forces to stop alienation of property, violence against thousands of capital residents.
Our goal is to inform the international community on the crimes committed by the authoritarian regime ofAzerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev is a distinguished and welcome guest inBrussels,Paris,London,Berlin, andWashington.Bakuis often visited by top officials of leading democratic countries. Oil…
The officials of the European Union visitBaku(Mr.Barroza paid a visit toBakuearly this year), but they do not meet with the civil society representatives. In their speeches the EU officials support the policy of Ilham Aliyev for democracy and economic reforms.
We ask for help. Let us not wait till blood is shed inAzerbaijanas is in Arabic countries. It is necessary even today to put the situation in authoritarianAzerbaijanand possible sanctions against the regime on the agenda and in reports.
The decision of the European Union to debar some Belarusian officials the right of entry and visa in the EU countries is very sound. The similar decision with regard to public officials ofAzerbaijanblatantly trampling down human rights and international law would produce good results.
This is the link in Youtube of 8 minute film, which I prepare especially for 29 March 2011 presentation inBrussels. This film will be the best illustration for situation with human rights inAzerbaijan: violation of the property right, policy violation etc.