If the authorities in Baku continue to ignore court orders to release an opposition politician, Azerbaijan could face expulsion from the 47-member organization.


As of January 2018, there were 161 people behind bars on politically motivated charges in Azerbaijan. The country’s most prominent political prisoner, however, is Ilgar Mammadov, cochairman of the opposition Republican Alternative (REAL) Movement and a blogger known for his criticism of the government’s repressive policies. Azerbaijani authorities’ refusal to release Mammadov despite rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has resulted in mounting tensions between Baku and the international community.

Mammadov was detained in February 2013 for reporting on protests in the town of İsmayıllı and sentenced in March 2014 to seven years in prison on charges of “organizing riots” and “using violence against police officers.” He was arrested alongside Tofig Yagublu, deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat party, but Yagublu was released in March 2016 as part of a presidential pardon that freed 148 people, including several other prisoners of conscience. The pardon was interpreted as an attempt by President Ilham Aliyev’s government to blunt international criticism of the country’s human rights abuses, though the fact that Mammadov remained in prison only underscored the selective and arbitrary nature of justice in Azerbaijan.

Since 2014, Mammadov has gone through two rounds of appeals before the ECtHR, and the court has found violations of Articles 5, 6, and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which…