[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment; press release] Thursday that Azerbaijan violated parliamentary candidate Namat Aliyevs rights to stand freely and fairly in the country's 2005 elections. Aliyev alleged that the government violated his rights under Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF], which ensures the free expression of the people in the selection of a country's legislature. Aliyev accused the Azerbaijan electoral commission and courts of failing to thoroughly investigate irregularities and breaches of electoral law in the election. The ECHR found:
What was at stake in those proceedings was not only the alleged infringement of the applicant's individual rights but also, on a more general level, the State's compliance with its positive duty to hold free and fair elections. Therefore, even assuming that the courts in the present case might have been unable to decide the case solely on the basis of the evidence submitted by the applicant, the material put before them was nevertheless strong enough to require them to take additional steps to obtain more information and verify the accuracy of the applicant's allegations which cast doubt on the free and fair character of the elections in his constituency.The ECHR found support for its decision in a report [text, PDF] by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [official website] on the elections. The ECHR ordered Azerbaijan to pay a 7,500 Euro fine [RFE/RL report, in Azerbaijani].
The Aliyev ruling is the 24th ECHR decision against Azerbaijan and comes as the country prepares to again hold parliamentary elections in November. Earlier this month, Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli wrote an editorial [WP op-ed] expressing concerns about the political situation in Azerbaijan. In March 2009, a referendum passed that eliminated term limits for the president. The referendum received approval to proceed [JURIST report] from parliament in December 2008. Incumbent president Ilham Aliyev [official website, in Azerbaijani] was elected president in 2003 following the death of his father Heydar Aliyev [BBC profile], a prominent leader in the the oil- and gas-rich former Soviet republic since 1969. In October 2008, I. Aliyev was reelected [BBC report] with nearly 90% of the vote, though the election was boycotted by opposition parties and was internationally criticized for failing to meet democratic standards [OSCE report; NATO statement]. Aliyev has been accused by members of the press of heavy-handed repression of the media [JURIST report].