Azerbaijan: alleged harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defender Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu and his wife (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Azerbaijan on 13 October 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. The Government replied on 8 December 2023.

Since the sending of the communication, Dr. Ibadoghlu’s health has continued to deteriorate. The human rights defender is suffering from his kidneys, prostate and eyesight and experiencing chest and back pains. His requests to be transferred to a medical institution have been denied so far. In addition, Dr. Ibadoghlu’s contacts with his lawyers and his family are reportedly restricted.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication Read the Government's response


Topic: the alleged harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defender Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu and his wife in Baku, Azerbaijan.


Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu has allegedly been under surveillance by the Government of Azerbaijan since 2013, after Azerbaijan joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and a broad NGO Coalition was formed inside the country to take part in consultations on the generation and distribution of oil and gas revenues. In 2013 and 2014, the government made several amendments to legislation relating to NGOs. In total, 26 such changes were made, including some which tightened regulations around registration and foreign funding. In the summer of 2014, a wave of arrests of human rights defenders, based on charges including tax evasion and illegal drug possession, swept the country. Among those human rights defenders who were allegedly targeted by the government were members of independent groups working to promote transparency of public revenues in Azerbaijan.

In June 2014, the business account of the Economic Research Center (ERC) and the personal bank account of Dr. Ibadoghlu were both frozen, and Dr. Ibadoghlu was summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office for questioning as a witness in a case against a number of local and foreign NGOs. According to the information received, the government allegedly withdrew 85005 manat (US $5000) from the ERC’s organizational bank account, which has still not been returned.

On 12 May 2015, the offices of the ERC were searched by staff of the prosecutor’s office. Financial documents and accounting records of the Centre, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI Coalition), and the National Budget Group were seized.

A criminal case against Dr. Ibadoghlu was opened in 2015 and remains ongoing. Dr. Ibadoghlu was charged with abuse of power, tax evasion, and illegal business. The activity of the ERC between 2010 and 2015 was claimed to be illegal because the organization failed to pay Value Added Tax (VAT), although civil society organizations are exempt from paying VAT in Azerbaijan. Approximately 20 other organizations were also included in the criminal case.

Dr. Ibadoghlu was then allegedly subject to a smear campaign where several newspapers and online resources published potentially defamatory articles alleging that he is a foreign agent.

In June 2018, Dr. Ibadoghlu lost his teaching position at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics, allegedly as a direct result of his work as a human rights defender.

On 23 July 2023, Dr. Ibadoghlu was traveling by car in Baku when he was stopped and surrounded by vehicles, forcibly removed from his car by more than 20 individuals claiming to be government officials and beaten. Dr. Ibadoghlu was charged with manufacturing and selling counterfeit money as part of an organized group. He was initially taken to the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (MDCOC) in Baku.

Dr. Ibadoghlu is reportedly being held in the Kurdekhani pretrial detention center outside of Baku. Family members were unsuccessful in delivering toiletries, clothing, and other necessities to him on 25 July. In an initial court decision in late July, Dr. Ibadoghlu was sentenced to 3 months and 26 days of “preventive detention” while the investigation is ongoing. Dr. Ibadoghlu has been able to meet with family members once since his imprisonment. Dr. Ibadoghlu is reportedly being detained with five other detainees in a cell that measures less than 20 square meters.

According to the information received Dr. Ibadoghlu’s health, already fragile due to diabetes and high blood pressure, is at immediate risk as he has been denied regular access to critical medication. He has also allegedly been denied regular access to clean drinking water and has developed additional health problems.

Gubad Ibadoghlu’s lawyer has filed numerous unsuccessful appeals against the decision by the court to detain him until his court date and has also been denied requests for Dr. Ibadoghlu to be placed under house arrest rather than in prison.

The eyesight in Dr. Ibadoghlu’s left eye has deteriorated significantly since his arrest. He already had a condition in his right eye causing blurry vision.


In the communication, we express our serious concern in response to the arrest of Dr. Gubad Ibadoghlu, which appears to be linked to his legitimate human rights work on promoting transparency and democratic control of the gas and oil industries.

We are further concerned at what seems to be a pattern of harassment against human rights defenders, including frequent detentions, harassment, interrogations, restrictions on receiving grants, searches and confiscations, and travel bans of human rights activists working in the field of transparency in the extractive industries.

The detention of human rights defenders is of serious concern. We also note that human rights defenders with pre-existing health conditions are at increased risk of serious illness in detention if not properly treated; this may violate their rights to life and to health. We regret that other alternatives, such as house arrest, were not assessed for Dr. Ibadoghlu’s case.


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