Court communicates case against Azerbaijan about serious ill-treatment of LGBT people

The Fifth Section of the European Court of Human Rights has communicated the case of A and 24 Others v Azerbaijan.

The case concerns allegations of serious ill-treatment of 25 people by the police solely on the basis of sexual orientation.

This is the first case concerning sexual orientation discrimination in Azerbaijan to have been communicated by the Court.

The facts

In September 2017, police in Azerbaijan, as reported by Human Rights Watch, conducted a violent campaign, arresting and torturing men presumed to be gay or bisexual, as well as transgender women.

Police in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, reportedly "detained dozens of people on dubious charges, beating and using electric shocks on some of them to coerce bribes and information about other gay men". 

Government officials are said to have "not denied the crackdown" but to have "attempted to justify it on spurious morality and public health grounds".

The applicants in this case are members of the LGBT community who were arrested during the police raids in mid-September 2017.

The complaints to the Court

The applicants complain that their arrest and subsequent administrative detention were unlawful and arbitrary, and based solely on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

They further argue that they were ill-treated by police officers and custodial staff and that the relevant authorities failed to conduct an effective investigation into their alleged ill-treatment.

The applicants also complain that they were subjected to forced medical examinations during their detention.

Questions to the Parties

The Court has asked the Parties the following question, in respect of Articles 3, 5, 6, 8 and 14 of the Convention:
  1. Have the applicants been subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment by police officers and custodial staff during their arrest and detention, in breach of Article 3 of the Convention?
  2. Did the material conditions of the applicants’ detention, amount to inhuman or degrading treatment? In particular: (a) What were the dimensions of the cell? How many persons were detained in that cell at the same time as the applicants? Did the applicants have a separate bed and bedding? (b) Was the cell adequately lit and ventilated? What were the sanitary conditions inside the cell? (c) Did the applicants have appropriate provisions of food, water, bedding and other necessities?
  3. Have the competent domestic authorities conducted an adequate investigation into the applicants’ allegations of ill-treatment, as required by the procedural obligation under Article 3 of the Convention?
  4. Did the applicants have effective domestic remedies at their disposal for their complaint under Article 3 concerning the alleged ill-treatment, as required by Article 13 of the Convention?
  5. Were the applicants deprived of their liberty in breach of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention? In particular, was the applicants’ “administrative” detention in compliance with domestic procedural rules (see Huseynli and Others v. Azerbaijan, nos. 67360/11 and 2 others, §§ 142-149, 11 February 2016)?
  6. Was Article 6 of the Convention under its criminal head applicable to the proceedings in all cases? In the affirmative, did the applicants have a fair hearing in the determination of the criminal charges against them, in accordance with Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 of the Convention? Were the applicants afforded adequate facilities to prepare their defence, as required by Article 6 § 3 (b) of the Convention? Were the applicants afforded an opportunity to defend themselves through legal assistance of their own choosing, as required by Article 6 § 3 (c) of the Convention? In particular, were the applicants’ right to be defended by a lawyer of their own choice restricted during the questioning at the police station and the proceedings at the first-instance court?
  7. Has there been an interference with the applicants’ right to respect for their private life, on account of their alleged forced medical examinations while in detention, within the meaning of Article 8 § 1 of the Convention? If so, was that interference in accordance with the law and necessary in terms of Article 8 § 2?
  8. Have the applicants suffered discrimination on the ground of their actual and/or perceived sexual orientation contrary to Article 14 of the Convention, this provision being read in conjunction with Articles 3, 5 and 8 of the Convention?
The Court has also requested that the Government submit copies of all documents relating to the proceedings concerning the applicants’ arrest and administrative detention (including the documents concerning the applicants’ medical examination, their lawyers’ requests (if any) for such examination to be carried out, and the copy of the Baku Court of Appeal’s decision of 29 September 2017 in respect of a case brought by one of the applicants.