The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is appalled by reports that Ministry of Interior officials – as yet unnamed – tortured blogger and activist Rashad Ramazanov (a.k.a. Hagigat Agaadin) during a custodial interrogation. The Azerbaijani authorities should establish an immediate and independent investigation into this barbaric case and hold those responsible for Agaadin's arrest, torture and ill-treatment accountable. They must also immediately release the blogger, who was arrested for a crime no greater than expressing his political opinion online.
IRFS does not condone any act of violence. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed and protected by the provisions of international instruments, and treaties signed and ratified by the Government of Azerbaijan, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and European Convention on Human Rights. To that end, IRFS:
- Calls on the authorities to release Rashad Hagigat Agaadin immediately and unconditionally;
- Demands that the authorities launch an independent and impartial investigation into reports of torture and other ill-treatment against Agaadin;
- Urges authorities to ensure Rashad Hagigat Agaadin is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and that he has regular access to any medical attention he may require and his lawyer;
- Demands that the authorities stop the harassment of peaceful activists and journalists, and honor their commitment to freedom of expression, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international conventions, treaties and international bodies, to which Azerbaijan is a party.
IRFS further calls on the international community, in particular the Council of Europe and the OSCE to take a stronger stance and exert greater pressure on the Azerbaijani authorities to fulfill their international human rights obligations.
Background: Rashad Ramazanov (Rashad Hagigat Agaaddin) was detained on May 9, near the "20 January" metro station and taken to the Department for Combating Organized Crime. The police reportedly found 9 grams of heroin on the blogger. Ramazanov rejects the charges. If convicted, the blogger may face confiscation of property and up to twelve years imprisonment.