Information Note on the Court’s case-law 186
Mehdiyev v. Azerbaijan - 59075/09
Judgment 18.6.2015 [Section I] See:  ECHR 590
Failure to take action in response to complaints concerning the alleged ill-treatment of a journalist: violation
Facts - In 2007 the applicant, a journalist, published two articles critical of the situation in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (“the NAR”). The subsequent events are in dispute. According to the applicant, on 22 September 2007 the head of the district department of the Ministry of National Security (“the MNS”) accused him of having published defamatory articles, following which he was arrested and taken to MNS premises where he was kicked and punched by five MNS agents. After his release at 2 a.m. the following day he immediately informed a newspaper of his arrest. Since it was too early in the day to see a doctor, he asked relatives to take photographs of his injuries. Later that morning he was rearrested by the police who wanted to know why he had informed the press of his arrest. According to the Government, the applicant was arrested for having used loud and abusive language in public.
Later that day, a District Court sentenced the applicant to fifteen days’ administrative detention for obstructing the police. He was then examined by a doctor but was not provided with a medical report. According to the applicant, he was deprived of food and water and received no bedding during his detention. He was forced to spend nights outside on the concrete walkway, was continuously handcuffed and suffered badly from mosquito bites. On 27 September 2007 he was released and treated in hospital, but was not given an official medical certificate. The applicant produced an unsigned medical record dated 1 October 2007 which stated that he had a broken rib but did not provide any further information.
On 3 October 2007 the applicant lodged a criminal complaint with the District Prosecutor’s Office relying on Articles 3, 5 and 10 of the European Convention. He subsequently lodged further complaints with the Prosecutor’s General Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ombudsman, the District Court, the Supreme Court of NAR, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan and the Judicial Legal Council. Although he was informed that his complaints had been forwarded to the competent investigating authority, no action was ever taken.
Law - Article 3 (procedural aspect): The Court was called upon to determine whether the national authorities had failed to conduct an effective official investigation into an arguable claim of ill-treatment by the police in breach of Article 3. It noted at the outset that the complaints the applicant had lodged with the domestic bodies had not led to criminal inquiries and no action had been taken by the domestic courts even though sufficient information regarding the identity of the alleged perpetrators and the date, place and nature of the alleged ill-treatment had been provided. The applicant had thus had an arguable claim that had required the authorities to conduct an effective investigation into his allegations.
Notwithstanding the information by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the applicant’s complaints had been forwarded to the investigating authorities for examination, no criminal inquiry had ever been initiated. The prosecuting authorities had not ordered the applicant’s forensic examination, or heard the applicant, the alleged perpetrators of the ill-treatment or any other possible witnesses. Finally, the Government had provided no explanation for the failure to conduct an investigation. Accordingly, there had been no effective investigation into the applicant’s claim of ill-treatment.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 3 (substantive aspect): As regards the applicant’s alleged ill-treatment by agents of the MNS, the Court had to assess whether his allegations were supported by appropriate evidence. The applicant had presented a detailed description of his ill-treatment as well as photographs taken by his family allegedly directly after his release from detention and an unsigned medical record of 1 October 2007. However, that evidence was insufficient for the Court to determine “beyond reasonable doubt” that the applicant had been subjected to the alleged treatment by agents of the State.
Conclusion: no violation (six votes to one).
The Court also held by six votes to one that there had been no violation of Articles 5 or 10 of the Convention.
Article 41: EUR 10,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage; claim in respect of pecuniary damage dismissed.
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This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.
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