Maria Dahle, Executive Director HRHN, said “Intigam is a colleague of the Human Rights House Network. We are delighted that IBA has honoured his work, and his courage and dedication in defending human rights and standing up against repression. Congratulations Intigam, you deserve this award, just as you deserve to be free and here to collect it in Vienna.”
Intigam is a human rights lawyer, president of the Legal Education Society in Azerbaijan, and a member of the Council of Europe’s Expert Council on NGO law. His brave work defending the human rights of NGOs, civil society, and low-income individuals in Azerbaijan has served to protect those most under threat in the country.
Intigam Aliyev (t.l.) outside the court in Baku before he was detained by the authorities.
In recognition of this work, the International Bar Association (IBA) today in Vienna presented Intigam with its 2015 Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Legal Practitioner to Human Rights.
Presenting the award, IBA President David W. Rivkin said, “Mr Aliyev is a courageous and dedicated human rights activist. His case serves as a stark reminder that for individuals across the world, being a lawyer is fraught with challenges and danger. Lawyers play a vital role in promoting justice, human rights, and upholding the rule of law, both at home and abroad. Mr Aliyev’s determination and resilience should be an inspiration to all IBA members.”
Sadly, Intigam was not free to collect the award. In April 2015, the Azerbaijani authorities sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison on politically motivated charges, aimed at silencing him and depriving Azerbaijani citizens of their right to appeal and seek justice before the court. When detained, Intigam was representing many Azerbaijanis at the European Court of Human Rights.
Maria Dahle continued: “Human Rights House Network, the IBA, human rights activists, and civil society organisations rightly honour Intigam’s work, and oppose his sentence in the strongest terms. He should not be in prison, but in the court room defending his clients, at home with his family, and here today in Vienna receiving this award for his dedication and courage.”
Intigam’s son, Necmin Kamilsoy, read out a statement by Intigam at the ceremony:
“I am sincerely greeting all of you and sharing my best wishes. Unfortunately, I can not do it in person, as I have to be in my country for certain reasons. In the country, where a lot of conscientious people – journalists, human rights defenders, public activists live their life as convicts, who were declared as hooligan, drug addicts, swindlers, traitors by the government of Azerbaijan and who the civil world recognize as political prisoners. The guilt of these people is just their willingness to live in a free, democratic, and fair society. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, in the old Europe, there are still such countries that, having a dissenting opinion there, expressing it, criticising government, defending human rights are still considered a crime.
In 2012, when the well-known organisation that I love very much, People in Need, awarded me with “The Best Human Rights Defender of the Year,” alongside the honor and happiness I felt a little discomfort as well. Back then, I was free in the world, however, there were quite many people in the prison in my country and felt I was being unfair to them.
That is why, I objected to similar initiatives and said drolly that I could accept these awards in inner peace if I were in prison. Now, I am in prison! But when I heard about this prestigious award, again I felt the honor and happiness, along with sadness at the same time. Today, in my country, my friends, colleagues, conscientious people are facing prosecutions, pressures, and imprisonments. They deserve this award at least as much as I do. Therefore, I am accepting this award on behalf of them. I share my deep gratitude with IBA for appreciating my efforts in such a way, as well as with all organizations that nominated me for this award! Thank you!”
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