RFE/RL Takes Azerbaijani Case To ECHR

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) says it has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to resolve claims brought by the Azerbaijani government that the company says have “hampered its news reporting inside the country for almost three years.”

In a September 13 statement, RFE/RL said it filed its appeal to the Strasbourg-based court in June.

The appeal cited articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory, providing for the right to a fair trial within a reasonable amount of time and the right to an effective remedy.

RFE/RL’s Baku bureau was raided and shut down by state agents in December 2014 on charges including two tax-related claims that the company says are “baseless.”

“We have been unable to make any progress on clearing these charges through the Azerbaijani judicial system,” RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in the statement. “The charges are baseless, and as Azerbaijan is under the jurisdiction of the ECHR, we’ve decided to take our case there.”

RFE/RL said that what authorities described as a parallel, criminal investigation has “dragged on despite a requirement under Azerbaijani law that it be completed by the end of 2016.”

“We can only conclude that this so-called investigation is an exercise in obfuscation,” Kent said. “It has produced no evidence of wrongdoing, but it has kept our Baku bureau in legal limbo and created a threatening atmosphere for our journalists.”