European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The ECtHR is a judicial body of the Council of Europe whose main function is to monitor the compliance of States parties with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The ECtHR is responsible for analyzing complaints from individuals, groups of individuals, or States for human rights violations committed by States that have accepted the ECtHR’s jurisdiction.

News from the ECtHR:

– On July 13, 2023, the ECtHR found that the decision to terminate the citizenship of an Azerbaijani journalist, rendering him stateless, violated his right to respect for private and family life in the “Emin Huseynov v. Azerbaijan” case. The facts refer that Emin Huseynov, who currently is a stateless person living in Geneva, worked as an independent journalist and was the chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), which is a non-governmental organization specializing in the protection of journalists’ rights in Azerbaijan.

In April 2014, a criminal case started in Azerbaijan for alleged irregularities in the financial activities of several non-governmental organizations, including IRFS. In August 2014, Mr. Huseynov was stopped at the airport and, fearing arrest, he went into hiding. Later, the Azerbaijani Government prosecuted Mr. Huseynov for illegal entrepreneurship, large-scale tax evasion, and abuse of power.

In this context, in a way that may not have been voluntary, Mr. Huseynov manifested to the President of Azerbaijan that he wanted to renounce his citizenship while indicating that he did not hold any other nationality. Subsequently, in 2015, Mr. Huseynov left the country. His citizenship was terminated in June 2015 and in October of the same year, Switzerland granted him asylum.

Regarding these facts, the ECtHR found that the decision terminating Mr. Huseynov’s citizenship not only left him without any valid identity document but also led to uncertainty concerning his legal status as an individual and his social identity, for which reason there was an interference with his right to respect for private life according to Article 8 (right to respect for private life and family life) of the ECHR.

Among its considerations, the ECtHR found that the national authorities neglected the fact that by terminating Mr. Huseynov’s citizenship, he would be left in a stateless situation, which is in contradiction with several international norms, such as Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness which states that “if the law of a Contrating State permits renunciation of nationality, such renunciation shall not result in loss of nationality unless the person concerned possesses or acquires another nationality”). Still, the ECtHR was unable to establish whether the renunciation of citizenship was voluntary or forced, although it found that several elements caused doubt about the voluntary nature of the renunciation. In addition, the ECtHR pointed out that Mr. Huseynov could not even challenge the decision that terminated his citizenship before the national courts and, for all these arguments, decided that Article 8 of the ECHR had been violated. The press release can be found here.