The Council of Europe on Wednesday formally agreed to take legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release an opposition politician from jail.
At its weekly meeting, the human rights organization’s Committee of Ministers — the foreign ministers of the 47 countries that make up the Strasbourg-based group — notified Azerbaijan of its intention to trigger Article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 46.4 has never been used and it could ultimately lead to Azerbaijan being expelled from the Council of Europe.
The case in question involves Ilgar Mammadov, a leader of the opposition Republican Alternative (ReAL) movement who was considering running against President Ilham Aliyev in the 2013 elections. Mammadov was arrested in February of that year after attending and reporting on an anti-government protest in the Azerbaijani town of Ismayilli that turned violent.
In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his detention was a human rights violation — but he is still in prison three years later.
The Committee of Ministers gave Azerbaijan until November 29 to set out its response in writing — and unless the country agrees to release Mammadov, the committee will send the case back to the European Court of Human Rights (the committee oversees implementation of the court’s judgments).
In a statement to POLITICO last month about the Mammadov case, the Azerbaijan foreign ministry said it “firmly rejects any claim suggesting that it has refused to implement judgements” of the human rights court.
The use of Article 46.4 in relation to Azerbaijan was raised in December 2016 and resurfaced last month when the committee declared its intention to trigger the procedure.
While Azerbaijan may be the most acute example of a country defying judgments of the court, it is far from the only one. There are nearly 10,000 court judgments that have not been put into effect, at varying stages of implementation.