17 September 2014 – A United Nations human rights body today announced that it has decided to suspend its visit to Azerbaijan due to obstructions it encountered in carrying out its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, to which the south Caucasus country is a party.
According to statement from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) delegation was prevented from visiting several places where people are being detained.
The delegation was in other ways barred from completing its work at other sites, despite repeated attempts to do so and assurances of unrestricted access to all places of deprivation of liberty by Azerbaijani authorities.
Following what it referred to as “serious breaches” of Azerbaijan’s obligations under the Optional Protocol, the Subcommittee concluded that the integrity of its visit, scheduled to run from 8 to 17 September, had been compromised to such an extent that it had to be suspended.
The delegation members halted their work on 14 September but some members remained in Azerbaijan to seek further engagement with the country’s authorities on the basis of the information currently at their disposal.
The head of the delegation, Aisha Shujune Muhammad, met the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs on 16 September.
The SPT expects Azerbaijan to abide by its international obligations under the Optional Protocol and enter into a constructive dialogue with the view of preventing torture and ill-treatment.
The SPT has a mandate under the Optional Protocol to conduct on-site visits and make recommendations to the authorities of State Parties to establish effective safeguards against the risk of torture and ill-treatment in places of deprivation of liberty.
The SPT Delegation to the Republic of Azerbaijan comprises the following members: Ms. Aisha Shujune Muhammad (Head of Delegation), Mr. Milos Jankovic, Ms. Margarete Suzuko Osterfeld, Mr. Miguel Sarre-Iguiniz, and Mr. Victor Zaharia (Focal Point for Reprisals).
The Optional Protocol on the Prevention of Torture has to date been ratified by 73 countries. At the end of a country mission, the SPT communicates its recommendations and observations to the State by means of a report.