AZERBAIJAN: CO Kamran Shikhaliyev on trial now

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Kamran Shikhaliyev, a conscientious objector in Azerbaijan, is on trial this morning in Jalilabad Military Court in southern Azerbaijan, charged with "fraudulently evading military service". He faces up to two years in a military disciplinary prison if convicted.

You can send a protest email here.

Background
Shikhaliyev, a Jehovah's Witness from Baku, was seized at Nizami District Conscription Office on 10 October 2013 as he responded to a call-up notice, two days after his 18th birthday. Rovshen Babayev, Head of the Conscription Office claimed to Forum 18 on 10 February that: "He wasn't detained, just sent to a military unit".

Officials at Babayev's office had earlier told Shikhaliyev he would be assigned to some kind of civilian alternative service, his fellow Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Instead, Shikhaliyev was taken against his will from the Conscription Office first to Bilajari in the capital Baku, then to Beylegan on Azerbaijan's central southern border with Iran.

Finally he was taken further south east to Military Unit No. 704 in Lankaran "where he has been detained against his will ever since", Jehovah's Witnesses added. "For four months, Shikhaliyev has been deprived of his liberty and unlawfully confined."

Thanks to Forum 18 for this information.

Facing 'physical abuse, verbal humiliation, and psychological pressure'
Since his detention in October 2013, Kamran Shikhaliyev has faced "physical abuse, verbal humiliation, and psychological pressure", according to Jehovah's Witnesses, speaking to Forum 18. Nonetheless he has refused to wear a military uniform, perform military duties, or take the military oath".

Ignoring international standards
In January 2001, on joining the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan committed to pardoning all jailed conscientious objectors and introduce a substitute service. Whilst the constitution was amended to allow for substitute service, no legislation was adopted to allow and regulate provision for this service.

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".

On October 15 2012, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission adopted a Joint Opinion on Azerbaijan's Religion Law with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The Opinion noted Azerbaijan's failure to meet its Council of Europe obligation to introduce a substitute service. The Opinion recommended the introduction of legislation "to expressly allow for alternative civilian service for those who refuse to perform military service owing to their religious (or non-religious conscientious) beliefs”. In its response, the Azerbaijani government noted that Article 76 of Azerbaijan's Constitution notes the right to substitute service. However, as already stated, no legislation was adopted to allow and regulate provision for this service, so in practice this provision is not in place.

Solidarity
You can send email to protest here Kamran's trial and his treatment: /node/22885.

Please also send a protest email to the Azerbaijani embassy in your country. A list of these can be found here.

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of conscientious objector Kamran Shikhaliyev, and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Hannah Brock
War Resisters' International