Judgement 1/16

pplicant name 1
Applicant type Natural person (stateless)
Number of applicants 1
Country Azerbaijan
Application no. 1/16
Date 13/07/2023
Judges Marko Bošnjak, President,
 Alena Poláčková,
 Krzysztof Wojtyczek,
 Lətif Hüseynov,
 Péter Paczolay,
 Gilberto Felici,
 Erik Wennerström
Institution Court
Type Judgment
Outcome Art. 8 Violation
Reason Not prescribed by law; quality of law
Type of privacy Private life; procedural privacy
Keywords Statelessness
Facts of the caseThe application concerns the termination of the applicant’s Azerbaijani citizenship, as a result of which he became a stateless person. At the time of the events the applicant was an independent journalist and the chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, a non-governmental organisation specialising in the protection of journalists’ rights. The Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case, in connection with alleged irregularities in the financial activities of a number of non-governmental organisations. The bank accounts of numerous non-governmental organisations and civil society activists were frozen by the domestic authorities. Various human rights defenders and civil society activists were also arrested within the framework of the same criminal proceedings, in connection with their activities within or with various non-governmental organisations. Applicant attempted to take a flight from Baku to Istanbul, but was not allowed to leave Azerbaijan. His mother informed him that she had received a telephone call from an employee of the prosecuting authorities, who had invited the applicant to present himself to the prosecuting authorities for questioning. However, fearing his imminent arrest, the applicant went into hiding. The applicant submitted a request to the President of Azerbaijan, stating that he wished to renounce his Azerbaijani citizenship, while living at the embassy of the Swiss Confederation. The  applicant indicated “I do not have any nationality other than Azerbaijani nationality”.
Analysis1. The applicant invokes quite a number of provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights, but the Court decides to only deal with the matter only under Article 8 ECHR. The Court quickly rejects a handful of preliminary points raised by the government and reiterates that although neither the right to citizenship nor the right to renounce citizenship is guaranteed as such by the Convention or its Protocols, the Court has held in that Article 8 ECHR may be effected when actions have an impact on the private life of the individual, such as through arbitrary denial of citizenship, arbitrary refusal of a request to renounce citizenship and the revocation or deprivation of citizenship. The Court stresses that it will take a consequence-based approach to the question of whether there was an interference, which seems a way for it to circumvent the difficult point that the applicant himself had requested his citizenship to be revoked. The Court does deal with this matter, but only later in its judgement.
2. The Court refers primarily to the question of arbitrariness, inter alia pointing to the procedural safeguards implicit in Article 8 ECHR and the quality of law doctrine, which provides that the legal systems must provide adequate safeguards against arbitrary use of power. Although granting someone’s wish to be deprived of citizenship seems hardly arbitrary, the Court underlines that under Azerbaijani law, a citizen may in no case be deprived of citizenship of Azerbaijan. The Court also refers to the UNHCR Guidelines on Statelessness which provides that loss of nationality is permitted where a person voluntarily renounces nationality in accordance with the law of a Contracting State, but only where the person concerned possesses or acquires another nationality. Where another nationality is not acquired or possessed, States should provide that the renunciation is without effect. Thus, the authorities violated the law in this case, and in addition, the Court concludes that the impugned measure was not accompanied by the necessary procedural safeguards, since the applicant had no opportunity to contest the domestic authorities’ decision to terminate his citizenship before the domestic courts. The other claims as to Article 10, 13 and 18 ECHR are not discussed by the Court in light of this finding.
3. It does dwell on several ancillary points raised by the applicant. As to his complaint under Article 34 ECHR, the Court underlines that citizens must be able to communicate freely with the Court without being subjected to any form of pressure from the authorities to withdraw or modify their complaints. Prohibited forms of pressure include not only direct coercion and flagrant acts of intimidation of applicants or potential applicants or their family members or legal representatives, but also other improper indirect acts or communication designed to dissuade or discourage applicants from pursuing a Convention complaint or having a “chilling effect” on the exercise of their right of individual application. States should furnish all necessary facilities to make possible a proper and effective examination of applications. However, in this case, the Court finds that there is no sufficient factual basis for it to conclude that the authorities of the respondent State interfered in any way with the applicant’s exercise of his right of individual application in the proceedings before the Court in relation to the present application. In that connection. As to the applicant’s complaint under Article 38 ECHR, the Court finds that the incompleteness of certain documents did not prevent it from examining the application. As to applicant’s request under Article 46 ECHR to impose a measure to annul the orders by the government and to restore his Azerbaijani citizenship, the ECtHR points out that it is in principle for the government to decide on the appropriate way to execute the judgement by the Court.
Other Article violation?No violation 10, 13, 18, 34 and 38
Damage awarded (a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 4,500 (four thousand five hundred euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable on that amount;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Documents Judgment