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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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UN Committee Against Torture finds Azerbaijan in Violation of Kurdish Journalist’s Human Rights

KHRP has just received news that the Committee Against Torture (CAT) has found Azerbaijan to be in violation of Articles 3 and 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for the extradition to Turkey of Ms Elif Pelit, a Kurdish journalist with refugee status in Germany.

From 1993-1996 Ms Pelit was detained in Turkey on charges of “subversive activities and terrorism” but was released due to lack of evidence. She claims that she was tortured whilst in detention. On her release, she fled to Germany where she was granted refugee status. She later began working as a journalist for a pro-Kurdish news agency. In 2003 she was sent to cover the events in Iraq and was attacked by unidentified armed individuals in Mosul in 2004, who seized her travel documents. In November 2004 Ms Pelit illegally entered Azerbaijan in order to contact the German Embassy and recover her travel documents but was arrested by the Azerbaijani authorities for illegal entry into the country.

On 3 December 2004, an Istanbul District Court sentenced Ms Pelit in absentia to 10 years’ imprisonment for alleged subversive activities on the grounds that she had covered a PKK meeting in Northern Iraq in her capacity as a journalist. The Court subsequently requested her extradition from Azerbaijan. On 2 June 2005 the Court of Serious Crimes of Azerbaijan ordered her extradition, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

On 25 September 2005 Ms Pelit submitted a complaint to the CAT on the grounds that her removal to Turkey would place her at risk of torture or other inhuman treatment. Despite agreeing to halt the extradition pending the Committee’s final decision on the matter, Azerbaijan deported Ms. Pelit to Turkey on 13 October 2006.

The Committee found that by removing Ms Pelit to Turkey despite its request not to deport her while her communication was pending before the Committee, Azerbaijan breached its obligations under the Torture Convention for failure to “cooperate with the Committee in good faith applying and giving full effect to the procedure of individual complaint established there under” (Article 22).

On the merits of the claim, the Committee found that Ms Pelit’s past experiences raised real issues under Article 3 and consequently, the manner in which the state party handled the complainant’s case amounted to a breach of her rights under Article 3 of the Convention.

On receipt of the news today, KHRP Executive Director, Kerim Yildiz, stated that “This decision not only firmly upholds the principle of non-refoulement in international law, but also acknowledges that, despite recent reforms in Turkey, torture remains an ongoing practice there. The risk of torture must therefore continue to be taken very seriously in extradition cases, particularly when minorities such as the Kurds are concerned.”