Conditions in Azerbaijan’s prisons are often so substandard as to amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Numerous credible reports are available, detailing severe overcrowding in prison cells and pre-trial detention centres, where low-quality food, poor medication, inadequate drinking water, sanitation and ventilation remain serious concerns.
The government at the highest levels has shown little or no commitment to curbing police impunity for physical abuse, and to vigorously implementing the drastic reform of the prison system that is urgently needed to protect detainees. The result is a clear message to lower-level officials and police that torture is an acceptable practice during investigations.
Torture and other forms of ill-treatment have become defining features of the Azerbaijani criminal justice system. The country’s security forces and prison guards routinely carry out torture and other ill-treatment, including during arrest and transfer to detention facilities, in police custody, pre-trial detention and in prisons. Several former political prisoners have reported on ill-treatment by the authorities for the specific purpose of compelling them to sign confessions or other testimonies. In most instances, activists and lawyers raised concerns on the operation of the Interior Ministry’s Department on Combat Against the Organized Crime (also known as Bandotdel), which is notorious for torturing detainees, especially the critics of the ruling regime.
During the research for this report, most complaints – apart from the endemic torture – were about overcrowding, insufficient heating in cells, unhygienic facilities, lack of access to natural light, poor nutrition, and denial of access to medical care in prisons and police custody. According to lawyers, clients were beaten by police or security forces or suffered from ill health in detention, almost never received adequate medical assistance. In some cases, the detainees were arbitrarily deprived of almost all contact with their families and their correspondence was not delivered to the authorities.
Publicizing ill-treatment, torture or police abuse can cause official retaliation. Mehman Huseynov, one of Azerbaijan’s most popular bloggers, is currently serving a two-year prison term on grounds that he “defamed” police officers because he went public about the ill-treatment he had suffered in custody. (see below paragraphs on more about his case.) A group of plainclothed officers attacked Huseynov, blindfolded and gagged him, forced a bag over his head, used an electroshock weapon on his groin, and punched him, bloodying his nose. The investigation into Huseynov’s allegations was swiftly closed after a summary finding that they were groundless.
 For detailes on cases of activists facing torture in this facility, see below.
The full text of the report can be downloaded from the file below.Azerbaijan prison and torture report Nov 2018