On January 12, 2018, the Belakani (Azerbaijan) District court found Afgan Mukhtarli guilty in the imposed charges and sentenced him to 6 years imprisonment. The court did not satisfy any solicitations of the defense side, which aimed to confirm innocence of Mukhtarli. The below signatory organizations believe that the Belakani District Court violated Afgan Mukhtarli’s right to fair trial, protected under the European Convention of Human Rights.
At the same time, although eight months have passed since the incident, the Georgian society is not informed about the investigation details into Afgan Mukhtarli’s case. There are serious questions about the effectiveness of the Georgian investigation. The society received information only about the dismissal of the head of the Counter-Intelligence Department of the State Security Service and the head of the Border Police Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.1 Lack of detailed clarifications about the fact, non-disclosure of relevant video-recordings from street cameras, reinforces our doubt about political influence over the investigation. Alleged participation of state representatives in this incident is not adequately studied so far.
Ineffective investigation of the fact undermines the Georgian democracy, which was several times underlined by the international partners. Even more, as the resolution of the European Parliament states “the European Parliament condemned the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli in Tbilisi and urged the Georgian authorities to ensure a prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into Afgan Mukhtarli’s forced disappearance.”
Authoritative human rights organization Freedom House ranked Georgia among partly-free states in its report Freedom in the World 2018. In its key findings, the Freedom House mentions the disappearance of Afgan Mukhtarli from Tbilisi and evaluates the authoritarian regime reaching across the borders as “most alarming threat to democracy.” Exiled Azerbaijani journalist, Afgan Mukhtarli, was kidnapped in Tbilisi by men who allegedly spoke Georgian, then transported across the border to Azerbaijan, raising concerns that Georgian authorities were complicit in the abduction,” the report reads.
Azerbaijani journalist, Afgan Mukhtarli, disappeared in Tbilisi on May 29, 2017. Later on, he turned up detained in Baku. According to Mukhtarli’s statement, he was kidnapped by Georgianspeaking people, who were dressed in Georgian police uniforms. This fact makes effective investigation of the case internationally resonant. In Azerbaijan, Afgan Mukhtarli was charged for the illegal crossing of the border, for smuggling and for violently resisting a law enforcement official.
It is noteworthy that the Georgian investigation did not satisfy the solicitation of Human Rights House Tbilisi and its member organization Article 42 of the Constitution2 on granting victim status to Afgan Mukhtarli and his wife, Leyla Mustafaeva. Also, no effective investigation was conducted into alleged illegal surveillance facts against Leyla Mustafaeva and Afgan Mukhtarli’s friend, Dashgin Aghalarli, in Tbilisi. It is important to note that Leyla Mustafaeva handed the photos of the persons to the investigation, who allegedly followed her, but there was no reaction to this fact.
Alleged abduction and forcible return of Afgan Mukhtarli to his country of origin violates the principles of international law. Georgia, as a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, is responsible to ensure security of aliens, including Azerbaijani citizens, or stateless persons, residing within the territory of Georgia and prevent their forced return to the country of origin, where they might be subjected to politically motivated detention, torture or inhuman treatment.
Considering the above mentioned, the below signatory organizations request:
The Government of Georgia:
- Make the investigation details into alleged abduction of the Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli on May 29, 2017 public: among them, due to high public interest towards the case, disclose the video-recordings from the cameras from the site of alleged kidnapping to the customs office on the border. Until now, the society was only informed that the investigation is ongoing under the Article 143 of the Criminal Code of Georgia that refers to unlawful imprisonment;
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia:
- To ensure independent and effective investigation into Afgan Mukhtarli’s case
- To ensure meeting of the CSOs representatives with the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia with regard to investigation results and ongoing process into Afgan Mukhtarli’s case.
- To proceed the investigation under Article 143 paragraphs 2,3 and 4 (unlawful imprisonment with aggravating circumstances present) also under Article 154 (unlawful interference with the journalist’s professional activities).
- To grant the status of victim to Afgan Mukhtarli and his wife, Leyla Mustafayeva.
1. Human Rights House Tbilisi (HRHT)
2. Human Rights Center (HRIDC)
4. Article 42 of the Constitution
5. Media Institute
6. Georgian Center for Psycho-Social and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)
7. Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
8. Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
9. Transparency International Georgia (TI)
10. Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
11. International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
12. Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
13. Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
2 HRHT and its member organization Article 42 represents Afgan Mukhtarli at the European Court of Human Rights, where the organizations sent the appeal Afgan Mukhtarli and Leyla Mustafaeva vs Azerbaijan and Georgia on July 19, 2017