Azerbaijan: European Court finds authorities hindered access to the Court

The ICJ welcomes the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Schukurov v Azerbaijan, finding that the right to petition the Court had been violated by the search of a lawyer’s premises and seizure of documents.

The ICJ submitted a third party intervention in the case, outlining international law and standards relevant to legal professional privilege and the seizure of legal documents.

The case files were seized as part of a criminal investigation opened against the lawyer, Intigam Aliyev, who was representing the applicants in the case. The Court found that the search and seizure by the Azeri authorities had violated article 34 of the Convention, which stipulates that States must not hinder in any way the effective exercise of the right of individual application to the Court.

The ICJ notes that the Court’s judgment follows its earlier finding of a violation of article 34 in the case of Annagi Hajibeyli v Azerbaijan, which arose from the same incident.

The ICJ stresses that these searches of lawyers’ premises are contrary to international standards on the role of lawyers. It is particularly worrying that they form part of a pattern of harassment of lawyers in Azerbaijan, including abusive disciplinary proceedings and criminal prosecutions. Such harassment damages the ability of lawyers to protect human rights through the judicial process, and undermines the independence of the legal profession.

The decision of the Court should now be fully and promptly executed, the ICJ said.

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