Azerbaijan: Imprisonment of conscientious objector while Human Rights Committee demands right to conscientious objection

In August 2009, Azerbaijan has again imprisoned a conscientious objector. On 10 August 2009, conscientious objector Mushfiq Mammedov was detained, and sentenced only one day later, on charges of evading military service (article 321.1). Mushfiq Mammedov is reportedly being held in the Kurdakhani isolation center and has not been given a lawyer. He was once detained in 2006 and given a six-month suspended prison term on the same charges.

Azerbaijan undertook an obligation to adopt a law on conscientious objection, when it joined the Council of Europe (CE) in 2001. However, the obligation has not yet been implemented.

In August 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Committee again recommended to Azerbaijan "that a law exempting conscientious objectors from compulsory military service and providing for alternative civil service of equivalent length be adopted at an early date in compliance with article 18 of the Covenant and the Committee's General Comment No. 22"

According to the State report of Azerbaijan, "in accordance with the provisions of article 2, part 2, of the Military Personnel (Status) Act of 25 December 1991, military status does not extend to persons performing alternative service (civilian conscription) in work detachments, humanitarian services and public utilities. Under the provisions of article 2, part 3, of the Military Conscription in the Republic of Azerbaijan (Basic Principles) Act of 10 June 1992, citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan who, for reasons of belief or on other grounds recognized in the Act, cannot be called up for active military service are required to perform alternative service (civilian conscription) for a period of 24 months."

As Conscience and Peace Tax International points out, on its own, however, this provision has no practical effect; it does not define the beliefs which will justify release from the obligation to perform military service. On 4th February 2005, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan found with regard to Jehovah’s Witness conscientious objector, Mahir Bagirov that a similar provision which had subsequently been incorporated as Article 76 of the 1995 Constitution conferred no right of conscientious objection to military service in the absence of specific implementing legislation.
The recent sentencing of conscientious objector Mushfiq Mammedov makes very clear that in law and practice the right to conscientious objection is not recognised in Azerbaijan.

Sources: War Resisters' International: AZERBAIJAN: Conscientious objector Mushfiq Mammedov detained and sentenced, 27 August 2009; Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under Article 40 of the Covenant, Third periodic report of States parties, AZERBAIJAN, CCPR/C/AZE/3, 10 December 2007; Conscience and Peace Tax International: Conscientious Objection to Military Service: AZERBAIJAN, 18 August 2008; Human Rights Committee: Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: AZERBAIJAN, CCPR/C/AZE/CO/3, 3 August 2009