Freedom for Anar Mammadli

On 29 April 2024, the Azerbaijani authorities arrested prominent human rights defender Anar Mammadli in Baku. He currently faces almost 4 months pre-trial detention. Human Rights House Foundation calls for the immediate and unconditional release of its colleague Anar Mammadli as well as all political prisoners in the country. [Updated 8 May 2024]


Freedom for Anar Mammadli

Human Rights House Foundation and other international organisations demand Anar Mammadli’s immediate and unconditional release.

Mammadli’s detention should also be understood as a direct reprisal for his independent and legitimate election observation efforts and human rights work. This includes his involvement in international advocacy at the UN Human Rights Council and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in March 2024, when he spoke at side events organised by international civil society organisations.

Ahead of COP29, Mammadli has advocated for the release of political prisoners as well as amendments to NGO legislation including at an HRHF side event on pressure on media and civil society in Azerbaijan at UN HRC55.

At these events and elsewhere, Mammadli highlighted violations of fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan, calling for freedom for political prisoners and improved legal and political environment for human rights defenders. These calls were also in line with the recommendations of the recently formed Climate of Justice Initiative, a civil society project in Azerbaijan that seeks to use COP29 as an opportunity to restore civic space in the country.

Civil society groups have estimated that the number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan currently stands at over 288 [as of April 2024]. Mammadli is the latest victim of government efforts to eradicate dissent and bring any attempts at legitimate human rights defence work to a standstill, a few months before Azerbaijan is due to host the UN Climate Change Conference, COP29 in November 2024 in Baku. 

Political prisoners: Our position

Human Rights House Foundation considers a political prisoner to be any person deprived of liberty for political motives or in violation of their human rights, in particular the rights to freedoms of expression, assembly, association and the right to be a human rights defender. This definition is, in part, inspired by the criteria outlined by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

[30 April statement] Human rights defender Anar Mammadli is the latest victim of Azerbaijan’s intensified crackdown against civil society and he should be released immediately

Human Rights House Foundation and the undersigned human rights organisations, condemn in strongest possible terms the Azerbaijani authorities’ detention of Anar Mammadli, a prominent human rights defender, leader of the country’s largest independent election watchdog and member of the Network of Human Rights Houses. We demand his immediate and unconditional release.

Read the full statement.


Case updates

8 May 2024 Baku City Ktatai District Court refused to grant house arrest to Anar Mammadli according to lawyer Elmar Suleymanov.

30 April 2024 The Khatai District Court of Baku ordered a 3 month and 28 day pretrial detention. Mammadli was charged with “smuggling by a group” under article 206.3.2 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code. His case is reportedly  joined to that of Abzas Media journalists, whose detention in November 2023 signalled the start of an intensified crackdown against free media and remaining fragments of the independent civil society. Since then, over a dozen journalists and human rights defenders have been put behind bars on spurious accusations, while another media platform, Toplum TV was raided in March 2024. Reports emerged about alleged torture, ill-treatment and other violations of the rights of detainees. 

29 April 2024 Anar Mammadli was detained in Baku as part of an intensified crackdown against civil society. According to sources close to Mammadli, he was forced into a car in the afternoon and detained. Police prevented his lawyer from being present during the search of his home, and the search of his parents’ home was also carried out in the absence of a lawyer. This pattern of violation of legal requirements has become emblematic in cases of political persecution in the country. It is feared that his detention is an act of retaliation for his independent and legitimate monitoring of the 7 February 2024 presidential elections, as well as for his human rights work. Before and after the presidential elections of 7 February 2024, state-controlled media targeted Mammadli and EMDS in a relentless smear campaign.


About Anar Mammadli

Anar Mammadli is a prominent Azerbaijani human rights defender, former political prisoner, and the founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), which is a member organisation of Human Rights House Azerbaijan. 

Mammadli has worked for decades in monitoring elections and advocating for transparency. In 2008, he established EMDS five months before the presidential elections of that year.

Mammadli’s arrest in April 2024 marks the second time that he has been detained for his legitimate human rights work. He was previously imprisoned for his election-related work following the 2013 presidential elections in Azerbaijan.

Anar Mammadli visits the Free Ales Bialiatski mural close to the Belarusian Embassy in Vilnius. June 2023.

Read our June 2023 interview with Anar Mammadli on his human rights work, his experience as a political prisoner, and the situation for his imprisoned colleagues in Belarus.

Political prisoner (December 2013 – March 2016)

On 16 December 2013, Azerbaijani authorities detained Mammadli following his vocal criticism of the 9 October presidential election in the country. On 26 May 2014, he was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months. 

Following his arrest, Mammadli served two-and-a-half years in prison and was internationally recognised as a political prisoner. On 29 September 2014, while still in detention, Mammadli was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, honouring his work as a human rights defender.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found his detention to be politically motivated. On 19 April 2018, the ECtHR issued its judgement assessing that Mammadli’s detention was illegal and that it was aimed at silencing and punishing him “as a civil society activist for his activities in the area of electoral monitoring”. At the time of his detention in 2024, the judgement has not been fully implemented. He received monetary compensation for the violation of his rights, but his conviction has not yet been quashed and his criminal record is yet to be erased. 

In June 2023 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on Azerbaijan to urgently take the stated measures to fully restore his rights.

November 2014: The Network of Human Rights Houses held a solidarity action calling for the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan including those pictures: Emin Huseynov, Intigam Aliyev, Lela Yunus & Anar Mammadli.

On 17 March 2016, after almost 2 years and 3 months in prison, Anar Mammadli was released from prison following a presidential pardon along with a number of high-profile political prisoners.


Take action

Write to Anar Mammadli

Speaking about the need to support political prisoners in Belarus in June 2023, Mammadli shared his thoughts on the importance of receiving postcards behind bars for a political prisoner: “We have to help [political prisoners] understand that what they face right now is temporary. That there are thousands of people thinking about them, about their situation. They need to know they are very important.”

If you would like to show your support and write a personal message to Anar Mammadli, please use the following postal address. Post a photograph of your postcard online with the hashtag #FreeAnar.

Anar Mammadli

Baku Detention Facility No.1 (1 Saylı Bakı İstintaq Təcridxanası), 

Eldar Khalilov Street, 

Sabunchu district of Baku city, AZ1104,


Show your support online and offline

Graphics for print: Human Rights House Foundation has prepared a poster that can be printed at A4 or A3 size.

Graphics for social media: Download HRHF’s social media graphics. Feel free to use/edit this sample text:

I call on the government of Azerbaijan to immediately and unconditionally release prominent #humanrights defender Anar Mammadli. #FreeAnar


Read HRHF’s June 2023 interview with Anar Mammadli on his human rights work, his experience as a political prisoner, and the situation for his imprisoned colleagues in Belarus.

Recent photographs of Anar Mammadli: