Azerbaijan: Supreme Court does not recognise constitutional right to conscientious objection

Azerbaijan's Supreme Court ruled on 4 February 2005 that the constitutional right to conscientious objection is in practice irrelevant. Mahir Bagirov, a Jehovah's Witness, had appealed to the Supreme Court after the appeal court in Baku had rejected his claim constitutional right to conscientious objection (see CO-update No 4, November 2004).

Article 76 (2) of the Azeri constitution states: "If beliefs of citizens come into conflict with service in the army then in some cases envisaged by legislation alternative service instead of regular army service is permitted." However, Azerbaijan has so far not passed any law implementing this right. The Supreme Court argued now that, as no law on alternative service exists, the appeal of Mahir Bagirov had to be rejected.

Bagirov's lawyer said that the Supreme Court's decision will be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. However, Bagirov himself "expects to be arrested by the military police and disappear into a military barracks where he anticipates being subjected to brutal treatment as an alleged deserter", his lawyer said.

Source: Forum 18 News Service, 10 February 2005