Azerbaijan urged to release three young men after unfair trial

The Azerbaijani authorities are being urged to resolve the cases of three young men, two of whom have already been detained for four years.

In a public statement on Friday, Amnesty International called on the authorities to release the three immediately, either pending a prompt and fair retrial which must comply with international human rights standards, or unconditionally, with the charges dropped.

Residents of the Surakhan district of the capital city Baku, Dmitri Pavlov, Maksim Genashilkin and Ruslan Bessonov were detained on 14 March 2005. They were then aged 15, 15 and 16 respectively. Dmitri Pavlov was released a few days later and detained again in August 2005. They are currently held on charges relating to the murder of teenager Vusal Zeynalov.

The three have been subjected to other violations of their rights under international human rights law. They were not permitted to immediately inform or have their families informed of their detention, and their parents were reported to have only been informed some eight hours later. The three were also denied prompt access to a lawyer.

All three are reported to have been beaten and otherwise ill-treated while in detention. It was after such treatment, coupled with the denial of food, water and sleep, access to their lawyer and their parents, that the three were said to have been compelled to sign false confessions and statements incriminating one another for participation in the murder.

Family members believe that the teenagers may have been targeted by investigators because of their Russian ethnicity. Their lawyer stated that “these boys were singled out (as scapegoats) because they were not of ethnic Azeri origin, two of them didn’t have fathers, they were low-income households and so these were vulnerable families with no one from ‘above’ to protect them.”

Judicial proceedings against them have been unreasonably prolonged, in violation of their rights to a trial within a reasonable time.

The three were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment In June 2007. Their convictions and sentences were upheld by the Baku Court of Appeal in January 2008.

In April 2008 the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeal had violated the rights of the three to a fair trial.

During the second review of the case, the Court of Appeal once again upheld the conviction of the three young men in July 2008. Its decision was overturned again by the Supreme Court in January 2009.

Their cases are now being reviewed in the Court of Appeal for the third time.
Amnesty International continues to call for a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the youths’ allegations of ill-treatment. If the allegations are confirmed, the three should receive reparation, including compensation, and those responsible should be brought to justice in fair proceedings.

Amnesty International has expressed concern that the rights of Dmitri Pavlov, Maksim Genashilkin and Ruslan Bessonov to a fair trial have been violated, as identified by two judgments by the Supreme Court. The organization is also concerned that the current review of the case may also fail to conform to international fair trial standards and that the continued detention of the three men may be arbitrary.