Article 27 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan (as amended) guarantees the right to life, but subject to a number of caveats:
I. Everyone has the right for life.
II. Except extermination of enemy soldiers in a case of military aggression, when executing the sentence and in other cases envisaged by law, right of every person for life is inviolable.
III. Death penalty, until it is completely annulled, may be applied legally only in cases of especially grave crime against the state, life and health of a human being.
IV. Arms shall not be used against human beings except cases of necessary defence, urgent situations, whenever a criminal should be caught, to prevent a prisoner from running away, to prevent revolt against the state or coup.
Article 31(I) provides that everyone has the right "to live in safety". Paragraph II of Article 31 states that:
Except cases envisaged by law it is prohibited to infringe on anybody's life, physical and spiritual health, property, living premises, to commit acts of violence.
In addition, according to Article 46(III), "Nobody must be subject to tortures and torment, treatment or punishment humiliating the dignity of human beings." There is no right of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution.
The use of force by the Azerbaijan Police is not otherwise addressed in the Constitution.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||Yes|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not party|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
The National Police of Azerbaijan is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan. The Police Act of 1999 (as amended) governs the use of force by the Azerbaijan National Police, but does not generally require that police use no more than minimum necessary force that is proportionate to the threat or the harm to be avoided.
The Police Act stipulates that firearms are to be used "exclusively for prevention of an imminent danger".Section 27, Police Act.It is explicitly allowed to use firearms in the following situations:
- prevention of escape by person suspected of committing criminal offence and arrest warrants issued in his regard or by person sentenced to imprisonment, including life imprisonment, as well as, prevention of attempts of their illegal release by other persons;
- armed resistance during detention;
- prevention of criminal offences posing an imminent danger to human life;
- prevention of an attempt to procure possession of firearms by other person;
It is further provided that:
Deprivation of life as a result of the use of private force, special means and firearms in cases of extreme necessity shall not be considered a violation of the right to life.Section 26(VI), Police Act.
At the same time, the Act states that:
Police officials shall be held responsible for illegal application of private force, special means and firearms according to the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan.Section 26(IX), Police Act.
There is no independent civilian body exercising oversight of the Azerbaijan police. Oversight is undertaken by the Internal Investigations Department, a unit within the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2016 Concluding Observations, the Human Rights Committee remained
concerned about allegations of frequent use of excessive force and/or detention and about the imposition of administrative and criminal penalties against persons participating in planned or spontaneous peaceful protests....
Mammadov and others v. Azerbaijan (2019)
In this case the first applicant alleged that he had been ill-treated by agents of the Ministry of National Security (MNS). He alleged he was deprived of water and food and was kept awake. He was also subjected to physical violence. In particular, the fingers of his right hand were several times squashed with a door and he got injuries on his left shoulder. His ill-treatment was stopped owing to his high blood pressure. He was released but died during a subsequent period of detention. Although medical evidence of the ill-treatment was not presented to the European Court, the Court stated that:
In the instant case, having regard to the fact that there was witness evidence about injuries (even if it came from the first applicant’s lawyer and family members), that the first applicant was detained by the authorities in an undisclosed location at the time when the alleged acts of ill-treatment took place, that the events complained of lay wholly within the exclusive knowledge of the authorities, and that the first applicant’s version of events has been consistent and plausible as far as essential elements are concerned and that the Government have failed to submit sufficient information or evidence calling into question the first applicant’s version of events, the Court must thus accept the first applicant’s account of events and concludes that he was subjected to ill-treatment when detained on the premises of the MNS between 2 and 17 February 2007.
Mikayil Mammadov v. Azerbaijan (2009)
In this case the applicant complained that state officials and police officers had been responsible for his wife's death, because they had unlawfully entered his family's dwelling, used excessive force and failed to take immediate measures to rescue his wife when she had set herself on fire. He further complained that the investigation authorities had not properly investigated the circumstances of his wife's death. The Court examined the complaint solely under Article 2 of the Convention, reiterating that Article 2 obligates States Parties to the European Convention
not only to refrain from the taking of life “intentionally” or by the “use of force” disproportionate to the legitimate aims referred to in sub-paragraphs (a) to (c) of the second paragraph of that provision, but also to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction.... This involves a primary duty on the State to secure the right to life by putting in place effective criminal-law provisions to deter the commission of offences against the person, backed up by law-enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression and punishment of breaches of such provisions. It also extends in appropriate circumstances to a positive obligation on the authorities to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual from another individual or, in particular circumstances, from himself .... However, such an obligation must be interpreted in a way which does not impose an impossible or disproportionate burden on the authorities, bearing in mind the difficulties involved in policing modern societies, the unpredictability of human conduct and the operational choices which must be made in terms of priorities and resources. Accordingly, not every claimed risk to life can entail for the authorities a Convention requirement to take operational measures to prevent that risk from materialising
The Court considered that,
by conducting the operation to evict the applicant's family (whether lawfully or not), the authorities could not be considered to have intentionally put the life of the applicant's wife at risk or otherwise caused her to commit suicide. The Court considers that, reasonably speaking, self-immolation as a protest tactic does not constitute predictable or reasonable conduct in the context of eviction from an illegally occupied dwelling, even in a situation involving such a particularly vulnerable sector of the population as refugees and internally displaced persons. When deciding to send the police to the applicant's dwelling in order to evict his family, the authorities could not have reasonably anticipated that the applicant's wife might react by committing suicide. There is no evidence to suggest that, in advance of the operation, the State agents involved had been aware, or should have been aware, of Chichek Mammadova's state of mental health and her alleged propensity for erratic behaviour.
The Court further considered, though, that
in a situation where an individual threatens to take his or her own life in plain view of State agents and, moreover, where this threat is an emotional reaction directly induced by the State agents' actions or demands, the latter should treat this threat with the utmost seriousness as constituting an imminent risk to that individual's life, regardless of how unexpected that threat might have been. In the Court's opinion, in such a situation as in the present case, if the State agents become aware of such a threat a sufficient time in advance, a positive obligation arises under Article 2 requiring them to prevent this threat from materialising, by any means which are reasonable and feasible in the circumstances.
The Court noted, however, that "in the present case the exact factual circumstances surrounding the incident itself are heavily disputed and are far from being clear, making it difficult to determine whether the State agents should have known of the victim's intention to commit suicide prior to her actually setting fire to herself and, if so, what adequate measures could feasibly have been taken by the State agents in those circumstances." The Court noted that "the situation in the present case cannot be equated to, for example, a situation involving a death in custody, where the burden may be regarded as fully resting on the State to provide a satisfactory and plausible explanation, in the absence of which inferences unfavourable to the State can be drawn." Having assessed the available information, the Court found that it could not "establish conclusively that the authorities acted in a manner incompatible with their positive obligations to guarantee the right to life".