Coalition of NGOs intervene before European Court for imprisoned journalist Khadija Ismayilova

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
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On September 1, Azeri Khadija Ismayilova a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. PHOTO: AP/Aziz Karimov

CJFE has joined a coalition of 14 free expression and press freedom organizations, led by PEN International and Privacy International, in submitting an intervention on April 19, 2016, in the case of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The intervention highlights the systematic abuse of journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, in violation of the ECHR Convention.

One of Azerbaijan’s most prominent investigative journalists, Ismayilova is among the few courageous journalists willing to report on risky topics such as human rights violations and corruption. She was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in September 2015, after being convicted of charges that the coalition believes are retribution for her reports on corruption involving senior government officials. Before her arrest in December 2014, she had been subjected to a relentless campaign of intimidation and persecution very likely orchestrated by the Azerbaijani authorities to discredit her investigative reporting.

“The appalling treatment of Khadija Ismayilova by the Azerbaijani authorities is symptomatic of a relentless crackdown on journalists and freedom of expression in the country in recent years,” said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International. “This important case before the ECHR is an opportunity to not only redress the injustice in one egregious case but to give wider protection to the media as a whole.”

The intervention cites two key points:

  • The systematic abuse and pattern of repression of journalists and other dissenting voices in Azerbaijan has resulted in a culture of impunity, with many cases of attacks by state agents going unpunished or with the attacked being punished instead.
  • Articles 8 and 10 of the ECHR’s Convention imposes positive obligations on Azerbaijan to protect journalists and their rights to free expression and privacy.

“Ismayilova has suffered a serious invasion of her personal privacy through the installation of hidden cameras and wires in her flat and publication of secretly filmed videos among other incidents. Azerbaijan has a positive obligation to carry out an effective investigation into these violations,” said Camila Graham-Wood, Legal Officer at Privacy International.

Azerbaijan is one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom, and Ismayilova’s case is only the latest incident in the unprecendented crackdown by the authorities to silence all forms of criticism and dissent.

The coalition is represented in this case by barristers Can Yeginsu from 4 New Square Chambers and Miranda Butler from 3 Hare Court.

The full intervention is available here: Khadija Ismayilova – Intervention


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