by Abdul ABDULOV
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting on 7 July 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Sverre Erik Jebens,
Giorgio Malinverni, judges,
and Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 20 October 2005,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Abdul Abdulov, is an Azerbaijani national who was born in 1940 and lives in Baku. The Azerbaijani Government (“the Government”) are represented by their Agent, Mr C. Asgarov.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
The applicant was the Chairman of the Liberal Socialist Party and a member of the Milli Majlis (Parliament) between 1990 and 1995.
The applicant was also the director of Tovbe Association, which had been registered by the Ministry of Justice on 20 September 1990. According to the association’s constituent documents, its goals included promotion of reforms and democracy, as well as healthy and “morally permissible” (“halal”) lifestyle among the general population, including specific targeted groups such as teenagers, orphans and prisoners.
In July 2005 the applicant applied for registration as a candidate for the upcoming elections to the Milli Majlis of 6 November 2005. On 10 August 2005 the Constituency Electoral Commission (“the ConEC”) for the single mandate Yasamal First Election Constituency No. 15 registered him as a candidate.
On 9 September 2005 the Chairman of the ConEC sent a letter to the Central Electoral Commission (“the CEC”). The letter stated as follows:
“The chairman of the “Tovbe” Association, Abdul Almas oglu Abdulov, was registered on 10 August 2005 [as a candidate for the parliamentary elections].
According to the complaints received by [the CoEC], Tovbe Association is located in the Iman Huseyn Mosque and its chairman is involved in religious affairs.”
Based on this letter, on 10 September 2005 the CEC cancelled the applicant’s registration as a candidate, relying on Article 85 of the Constitution which provided that clergymen could not be elected as a member of the Milli Majlis. The applicant became aware of this decision the next day, on 11 September 2005, when it was published in the official press.
Following the applicant’s request, on 15 September 2005 the Deputy Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Board, the official governing body of Muslim religious organisations in Azerbaijan, provided him with an official statement noting that the applicant was not a clergyman and had no connection with the Caucasus Muslims Board.
Meanwhile, on 12 September 2005 the applicant lodged a complaint with the Court of Appeal against the CEC’s decision, complaining that his candidacy had been cancelled arbitrarily because he was not a clergyman and did not hold any religious office. On 15 September 2005 the Court of Appeal rejected his complaint, finding the CEC’s decision lawful. Specifically, the Court of Appeal noted in its judgment:
“Having heard the parties’ submissions and examined the materials in the case file, the court considers that the claim must be dismissed.
In particular, according to the materials of the case, Abdul Almas oglu Abdulov nominated himself as a candidate for the parliamentary elections and on 10 August 2005 his candidacy was registered by the Electoral Commission for Yasamal First Election Constituency No. 15.
According to the letter no. 15/1-104 of the Chairman of [the ConEC] S. Suleymanov, addressed to the Chairman of [the CEC] M. Panahov and dated 9 September 2005, after the registration of the candidacy of A.A. Abdulov, it was established from the complaints received by [the ConEC] that A.A. Abdulov, as a leader of the Tovbe Association, engaged in religious activities in the Imam Huseyn Mosque.
It follows that Abdul Almas oglu Abdulov, who has nominated himself for elections to the Milli Majlis, engages in religious activities in the mosque and is known as a clergyman in the society; it cannot be doubted that he is a clergyman and this is accepted as a fact by the society. ...
In accordance with Article 56 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, clergymen, among other categories of persons, may be limited in their right to participate in elections. In accordance with Article 85 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, clergymen ... cannot be elected as a Deputy of the Milli Majlis. ... Therefore, the appeal must be dismissed.”
The applicant lodged a cassation appeal against this judgment with the Supreme Court. He argued that he could not be considered as a clergyman, as he did not hold any religious office and did not have any formal religious education. On 23 September 2005 the Supreme Court dismissed the applicant’s appeal.
The applicant’s further appeals lodged with the Plenum of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court were not admitted for examination on the merits.
The applicant complained under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention that, although he had not engaged in any professional religious activity, his candidacy for parliamentary elections of 6 November 2005 had been cancelled in an arbitrary manner. He also complained that he had not been informed about the cancellation proceedings in the CEC beforehand. Lastly, he complained that the domestic courts had ignored the evidence submitted by him and upheld the CEC’s decision without proper judicial examination of the case.
By letter dated 19 February 2008 the Government’s observations were sent to the applicant, who was requested to submit any observations, together with any claims for just satisfaction, in reply by 1 April 2008.
By letter dated 6 May 2008, sent by registered post, the applicant was notified that the period allowed for submission of the applicant’s observations had expired on 1 April 2008 and that no extension of time had been requested. The applicant’s attention was drawn to Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention, which provides that the Court may strike a case out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the applicant does not intend to pursue the application. The applicant received this letter on 13 May 2008. However, no response has been received.
The Court considers that, in these circumstances, the applicant may be regarded as no longer wishing to pursue his application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention. Furthermore, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 in fine, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols which require the continued examination of the case. In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Søren Nielsen Nina Vajić