Azer Samadov: Victim of INTERPOL abuse
Azer Samadov, a former Azerbaijani political refugee who currently has Dutch citzenship, was subject to an INTERPOL arrest warrant for six years.
Prior to the 2003 presidential elections in Azerbaijan, Azer and his organisation joined the anti-Aliyev opposition movement. After Azer announced his support for an independent candidate in opposition to Ilham Aliyev, three members of the Azerbaijani KGB threatened him with criminal charges if he continued to support the opposition, however Azer refused to change his political position. Following the election Azerbaijan experienced mass repression of political opponents and oppositional organisations. A number of members from Azer’s organisation were arrested, and he then decided to leave to Georgia in 2003, where he continued to carry out his political activity.
In March 2006, Azer was unexpectedly arrested by Georgian counter terror officials at the request of Azerbaijani authorities. In his absence, he had been charged with “participation in mass public disorder” (article 220 of the criminal code) and “resistance to the representatives of the authorities” (article 315). Azer claimed that he was only an observer in the mass riots on the 15th and 16th March and was able to provide evidence that he did not participate in these events. After his arrest, human rights defenders from Georgia and Azerbajian placed pressure on the authorities to release Azer. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a call to action. Following this international pressure, the Georgian government released Azer on bail.
Two weeks after his release he applied to the UNHCR for political refugee status, as Azer and his friends were doubtful Georgia would grant him Asylum at the risk of damaging their diplomatic relationship with Azerbaijan. In May 2008, the UNHCR provided a protection letter to confirm Azer was a refugee under the mandate of the UNHCR, Azer and his family subsequently moved to the Netherlands in May 2008.
Azer was first aware that he was on the INTERPOL Red Notice list, at the request of Azerbaijan when he was arrested in April 2009 at Schipol airport, the Netherlands. He was meeting his mother who had travelled from Azerbaijan to see him and his family. Azer was held at the airport for over four hours with his mother, who suffers from diabetes and other health problems. Azer was later released and told that his arrest was the result of a technical mistake.
In February 2010, the Commission for the control of INTERPOL’s files acknowledged the receipt of a letter from Mr. Hopman regarding the situation of Azer Samadov and the necessity to ensure the compliance of the extradition request with INTERPOL’s standards. The Commission judged the request admissible, but there has been no follow-up since. In March 2014, the legal adviser of the Chief of Police of the Central Unit of the Dutch National Police contacted the CCF, reminding them that they had been silent for over 4 years, following the initial demand.
Azer Samadov’s Red Notice has had a significant impact on his life; magnified by the fact he suffers from pancreatic problems. His doctor has advised him to consult a specialist in Germany, however he is unable to leave the Netherlands. His work has also suffered he has been unable to meet colleagues.
In September 2015, Azer finally had his Red Notice removed, eight years after it was first issued, in a decision that appeared to be in line with INTERPOL’s new policy on the processing of Red Notices against refugees.