In Azerbaijan, the freedom of assembly is regulated by the Law No. 537-IG «On the Freedom of Assemblies» as of 13 November 1998. Prior authorization regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies is required.
Procedure for organizing meetings
- organizers can be citizens of Azerbaijan or any other state;
- organizers can be under the age of 18;
- a notification about the organization of a meeting shall be submitted not later than 5 working days prior to the date on which the planned meeting is to take place;
- organizers do not bear any expenses for the holding of the event;
- organizers of their representatives must participate in the assembly personally.
Local authorities determine the list of places where mass events are permitted.
What is allowed by the law?
- In the republic, it is permitted to hold simultaneous opposition assemblies (counter-demonstrations) and to campaign for participation in them before filing a notification.
- The law does not prohibit the use of masks by participants to express their opinions, nor does it specify if rallies can be conducted in the night-time.
Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to gather within 200 meters from the buildings of the legislative, executive or judicial authorities;
- to gather near railways, oil or gas pipelines, etc;
- to hold assemblies that aim to propagandize war;
- to organize pickets of more than 50 people;
- to incite violence or discrimination;
- to organize political rallies during election silence (the day before presidential or general elections or a referendum, as well as on the election day until the closing of polling stations);
- to bring guns, knives, stones, pieces of glass, boards, bludgeons, and so on to the meeting.
The authorities may prohibit political rallies on the eve of and during «international events of national importance» for safety purposes.
- organizers face a fine of up to 3,000 manats (or $ 1,765) for violating the rules for holding a rally, or community service up to 240 hours, or administrative arrest up to 2 months. In case of criminal liability, a fine of up to 8,000 manats (or $ 4,706), or correctional labor up to 24 months, or imprisonment up to 24 months;
- participants can be fined up to 600 manats (or $ 353), or community service up to 200 hours, or administrative arrest up to 2 months. In case of criminal liability, a fine of up to 8,000 manats (or $ 4,706), or correctional labor up to 24 months, or imprisonment up to 24 months;
- for illegal obstruction of a meeting by using official position, a fine of up to 6,000 manats (or $ 3,529) is threatened.
Commentaries of experts and paticipants of public events
A participant of rallies in Azerbaijan who was detained several times by law enforcement officials considers the freedom of peaceful assembly to be severely restricted. According to his response, the matter of actual practice differs from the norms and regulations enshrined in the law on freedom of assembly. Holding any kind of demonstration and meeting appears to be problematic. In fact, the local authorities and police officers are not being prosecuted for breaking the law and resorting to the use of force while detaining participants.
Azerbaijan is under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Nonetheless, according to our source, the authorities in the country implement the decisions of ECtHR concerning illegal restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly slowly and selectively.