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Some of our brothers and sisters who were detained in Azerbaijan in 2010. The ECHR has ruled that their religious freedom was violated

FEBRUARY 27, 2020

ECHR Victories Regarding Azerbaijan Cases

ECHR Victories Regarding Azerbaijan Cases

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has handed Jehovah’s Witnesses two victories in cases involving our religious freedoms in Azerbaijan. It is hoped that these ECHR judgments will more firmly establish our brothers’ freedom of worship throughout the country.

On February 20, 2020, the Court ruled on the cases Nasirov and Others v. Azerbaijan, which has been pending since 2010, and Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses v. Azerbaijan, pending since 2009. In Nasirov, the court ruled that Azerbaijan violated Articles 5 and 9 (Liberty of Person and Freedom of Religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights when it repeatedly detained, convicted, and fined Jehovah’s Witnesses participating in the ministry in 2010. The Court awarded $3,235.80 (EUR 3,000) in moral damages to each applicant—a total of $22,650.60 (EUR 21,000). In Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the court ruled that Azerbaijan violated Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the Convention when it blocked our brothers from importing and distributing some of our publications.

Jason Wise, one of the lawyers who assisted with the cases, explains: “For many years, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan had difficulty importing and distributing religious literature. There were dozens of court cases challenging restrictions on importation. There were dozens more contesting arrests and detentions of Witnesses participating in the public ministry. The ECHR’s two judgments are landmarks for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan. In Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Court held that the religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not give rise to interreligious frictions or lead to any other harmful consequences. In Nasirov, the Court confirmed that religious literature may be distributed in public places to people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are pleased the Court has upheld freedom of religion and expression in Azerbaijan.”

Brother Famil Nasirov expresses his feelings: “In the past, we faced many difficulties in our country. It was common for police officers to detain us and then interrogate us for 4-5 hours. But because of Jehovah’s support and the efforts of our dear brothers, this no longer happens and we can now preach more freely.”

Even prior to the ECHR ruling, our brothers have enjoyed increased freedom of worship in Azerbaijan. The government has allowed our brothers to import and distribute our literature. None of our brothers have been fined for attending our meetings since January 2017. Meetings are currently held in three Kingdom Halls in Baku, as well as in private homes throughout the rest of the country. Since 2015, the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations, the government agency in charge of registering and regulating religions in Azerbaijan, has facilitated the Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses to hold the Memorial of Christ’s death, regional conventions, and assemblies in rented venues.

We are grateful to Jehovah for these favorable judgments and thank him for continuing to support our brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan.—Psalm 98:1.