Elchin Behbudov: “The number of the complaints connected with the facts of torture is reducing” - INTERVIEW

Elchin Behbudov: “The number of the complaints connected with the facts of torture is reducing” - <font color=red>INTERVIEW</font>
# 20 February 2012 11:14 (UTC +04:00)
APA’s interview with Committee Chairman, human rights defender Elchin Behbudov

- When did you start activity as a human rights defender?

- In 1997 I began to work in the office of the head of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Azerbaijan National Committee, human rights defender Arzu Abdullayeva. I have been working as human right defender since that time. As you know, I worked in the law-enforcement bodies from 1980s till 1995. Then I was unjustly arrested. After getting liberty I decided to work as human rights defender.

- When was the Azerbaijani Anti-Torture Committee established?

- After Azerbaijan became member of the Council of Europe I thought that we need to establish such committee. We established the Azerbaijan Anti-Torture Committee on February 20, 2002. I saw the tortures while being in prison. We established this committee because I have worked in the law-enforcement bodies for a long time and I know this system. The Justice Ministry registered the committee in 2005. 10 years have passed today since the opening of our organization. Our committee has about 300 members and our representations are working in the regions.

-What is your main purpose in establishing the committee?

-Our main purpose is to protect human rights of the people who were exposed to torture and to identify the security agencies torturing prisoners. We are preparing annual report on this. Advocates and families of the detained people mainly address to the committee. We investigate the facts of torture and inform the heads of the security agencies. Unfortunately they always answer that the fact of torture was not confirmed.

-Which state and international organizations does the Azerbaijani Anti-Torture Committee work with?

- We are working together with the Ministry of internal Affairs, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Prosecutor Office of the Azerbaijan Republic, as well as UN Anti-Torture Committee, OSCE, European Union, Human Rights Watch and the other international organizations. We conduct monitoring in the closed facilities under the above-mentioned ministries and inform the chief of these organizations about the results of monitoring. Previously we had close cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. Unfortunately, now we have no cooperation. Some organizations don’t like when we criticize them. However I believe we will solve the problems soon and continue working together. I was one of the first members of the public committee under the Justice Ministry for control of penitentiary service. But someone disliked my critical opinion. One can not to announce about monitoring to secure its transparency. But they inform about the monitoring two days before conducting it. It is not correct. Currently the prisoners held in penitentiaries address us. We inform the governors of penitentiary facilities about the problems we found during the monitoring that they can take measure against it. I am working closely together with Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and National Security Minister Eldar Mahmoudov. They are always focusing attention on the problems. Ramil Usubov says that the complaints sent by the committee are investigated under his control. Unfortunately some reporters write that why the human rights defender meets the ministers? This is our work and it should be coordinated. If I conduct monitoring in the organizations headed by them, how can I do it without working together with them? When Sabayel interim custody moved to new building, there was no walk ground there. I informed Ramil Usubov about this problem and 15 days later a walk ground was constructed there. Guba police office’s interim custody was like to medieval dungeon. At the direction of the minister, a new building was built there.

- What factors are meant when speaking about the fact of torture?

- Some human rights defenders regard beating of woman by husband, of children by parents as the fact of torture. But internationally these cases are regarded as violence. Torture is the infliction of pain, injury on the detainees, defendants, suspects by public officials, law enforcers.

-Where is the fact of torture recorded most of all?

-Most of all, the fact of torture is recorded during the preliminary investigation. Most of the applications we receive are connected with it. But the number of the complaints is reducing. 169 people appealed to us concerning torture, the relatives of 11 people appealed concerning the fact of death in 2010, 136 people appealed to us concerning torture, the relatives of 9 people concerning the fact of death in 2011. National Preventive Mechanism against tortures was established in Azerbaijan and Human Rights Commissioner was entrusted with this task. Human Rights Commissioner has too much work. Moreover, public organizations should have been involved in order to ensure transparency. But Elmira Suleymanova does not allow a public organization to be involved in the National Preventive Mechanism. If there is no public control, transparency is out of question.