Statement of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev, January 22, 1998

Distinguished reporters, representatives of the organs of media,

I came to see you, to make a statement about my thoughts, ideas and suggestions on an important issue.

We know that Azerbaijan has intensified the fight against crime in the recent years. The authorities, law-enforcement bodies responsible to implement the policy of the state have taken consistent steps and they have produced positive results.  

The civil war which began in 1993 was averted. Then in 1993 - 1994 and in the first half of 1995 the administration of the country took consistent steps in the country to prevent the criminal situation existing prior to that period. Now it is not difficult to remember those years when many criminals were acting with impunity in Azerbaijan. There were a lot of criminal groups, teams, illegal armed groups. Most of them belonged to individual groups, people and political organizations. All this led to retention and use of illegal arms in large quantities in Azerbaijan.

That is why lawlessness and arbitrariness were dominating in Azerbaijan. People in that period suffered great difficulties in order to protect their lives. Group of racketeers robbed people. Kidnapping and murder became commonplace. All this took place more than a year ago. I think that this situation in Azerbaijan is the result of impunity, anarchy, arbitrariness, existing before 1993.

We did much to normalize the situation, we faced many difficulties. However, I am pleased to note that we could settle these problems. Rendering harmless some criminal groups, we at the same time faced an organized structure, which committed grave crimes against the state. There was an attempt of a coup d'etat by the high officials in the country in power, in October 1994, in Azerbaijan. We prevented it. Now three years have passed since. Some of the people, who committed this crime, are still being sought and or caught in different countries in the past three years. Even one of the active organizers of the crime was arrested in Russia and extradited to Azerbaijan a month ago.

However, it is gladdening that no matter where they hide, now our country has great potential, and the law enforcement bodies of our republic work better than before, therefore those people are arrested in other countries and extradited home.

But you remember that we are faced another major armed group then. Now some groups of opposition sometimes try to protect these criminals, or defend their rights. Of course, the right of every person must be protected. We never objected against it. However, it is necessary to think about what damage these people have caused the people of Azerbaijan. Such persons have violated the rights of hundreds of people with their crimes.

Such a big organized group was within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a unit called OMON, that is a unit organized for special assignments. It did not gain that position within a day, a month or a year. Doubtless, it was established for special purposes of our country. But then, the team was left to itself, no one ruled it, or those who ruled it were criminals themselves, this squad has gradually turned into a large criminal squad. Instead of protecting the interests of the country, the rights of people or fighting against the organized crime, they committed violence, crimes against the people. They robbed people, tortured them and killed. Now the investigation has revealed that their crimes were not just those which were committed only in March, 1995. Some of them have 5, 6, 7 killed people, they have sentenced now to capital punishment, they have killed people.

That is why OMON gradually turned into a criminal team. They collected so much money and armed so much that they claimed for power and tried to make a coup. It was suppressed and the trash of that party is still being sought and found. Some of them were arrested, others are still hiding in different countries and are trying to create subversive groups against Azerbaijan. Their last subversive and terrorist group - a large group headed by Elchin Amiraslanov was arrested in Azerbaijan in December 1996. They have already been trialed, sentenced.

Consistent efforts were made and will be made to identify, neutralize, eliminate large groups of criminals to clear the society and country from them hence. The main result of it is the establishment of the political stability and security in Azerbaijan.

I believe that in Azerbaijan the fight against crime is a success. Criminal cases have decreased. The most important is the organized crime and mass crimes have been completely prevented.

Minister of Interior Affairs Ramil Usubov will hold a press conference on the results of the year tomorrow. He will mention the specific facts and numbers. Those who are interested in them can get information from him. But generally speaking, a stability has been established in the country. People live in peace, rest and work. Perhaps you can compare 1993, 1994 and1995 the present situation yourself.

I believe that on the basis of these sentences the fight against the crime should be continued in the republic. There are many crimes, they should be stopped. It is impossible to think a society without any crime. But the crime should be prevented as soon as it is discovered.

Along with the work we did in this field I believe we have done much in the humanization of punishment and got good results. This is reflected in the fact that we think about those who are serving sentences. We made necessary decisions on the amnesty of prisoners. As a result, many people have been exempted from punishment or their punishment was mitigated.

That is, on the one hand, we strengthened the fight against crime, on the other hand, we have taken very serious, steps and measures to humanize the policy of punishment.

You know it. However, I want to recall them briefly recall. 1705 people who were serving their sentences have been released from punishment according to my decrees issued in the recent years. On my initiative in May 1996 and October 1997, the parliament adopted an Act of Amnesty. As a result of this amnesty 17 thousand people were released from punishment. The amnesty adopted in October 1997 is still in the process of application. In general, 30,000 Azerbaijani citizens will be exempted from punishment at its completion. We shall strive to continue our work in this area.

I believe that the fight against crime will reduce the number of crimes. The humanization of our policy of punishment will also create a healthy human mind against crimes and criminality at the same time. In the humanization of the policy of punishment another question arises. It is the question of the death penalty and its enforcement.

As you know, since the establishment of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the present day in our country, both in the period of the former Soviet Union, and after we gained our independence death penalty existed in the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan and it exists today, too. However, we have done a lot to reduce the number of death sentences, as well as their complete abolition in the recent years. It is because that a number of articles of the Criminal Code relating to the death penalty were revised in 1996 and at my suggestion the parliament adopted a due resolution. According to these regulations, the death penalty was withdrawn from 21 articles of the Criminal Code. Then the death penalty was retained in the eleven articles of the Criminal Code for the most serious crimes to this day. In addition, it was forbidden to impose death penalty on women and on men over the age of 65 in 1996. Now I am going to take the next step. But it would be nice in this connection to recall the statistics of the past years.

I would like to note that death penalty always existed in the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, and the courts passed sentences on it. However, issues of capital punishment and its execution are not the same.

If you look at the statistics of the previous years, since 1988, you will see that in Azerbaijan five  people were sentenced to death in 1988, five death sentences were carried out, that is, they were shot. One in 1988, and three in 1990 were sentenced to death.

From 1990 to 1993, the death penalty was not executed in Azerbaijan. In 1993 there was issued a decree on the enforcement of the death penalty against 9 persons and eight death sentences were carried out. One person died in prison before the execution of the sentence.

I do not want to analyze the numbers for 1988 and 1989s. I said that they were few. In 1988, 1989, 1990 death sentences against 14 people were carried out, but in 1993 a decree was issued on the enforcement of death penalty against nine people, eight sentences were carried out.

Since June 1993, in Azerbaijan, the death sentence is not executed. In fact, we have imposed a moratorium on the execution of the sentence.

However, it is very strange that the death penalty against nine people was fulfilled in 1993. Isa Gambarov, who exercised the powers of the President of Azerbaijan, ignored the petition for amnesty of those nine people sentenced to death by a court and issued a decree on their execution. In June 16, 1992 he issued an order for the enforcement of the death penalty. President Abulfaz Elchibey issued a decree on the enforcement of the death penalty against two persons in January 1993.

This is very strange. The administration consisting of the members of the Popular Front and Musavat lasted only a year. But by launching their activities, they were trying to enforce the death penalty. These people were killed, that is, shot in Bail prison. Of course, I can have no objection to the decision of the court – it is the work of court to make decisions. It is obvious from the case that the executed men had committed crimes. Perhaps they were sentenced to death properly, but in comparison with others they were not so dangerous. Strikingly, Isa Gambarov signed a decree on the enforcement of the death penalty against seven people in June 16, 1992.

It is known that presidential elections were held in June 7, 1992.  Abulfaz Elchibey was elected President. The Central Election Commission published a report on the election of Abulfaz Elchibey in June 13. According to the then law on the presidential elections, the President is considered to assume his duties from the date of his election. Thus, Abulfaz Elchibey was elected President in June 7 the Central Election Commission announced that in June 13. I remember the inauguration of Elchibey in June 17. Thus, a day before, in June 16 when Abulfaz Elchibey was already president and Isa Gambar this time could not exercise the powers of the President - apparently one of the most important questions for him was to sign a decree on the enforcement of penalties against seven people sentenced to death. I cannot tell what stands behind it. However, this fact by itself causes a great surprise and concern.

As I said, later Abulfaz Elchibey, when he was president, signed a decree on the enforcement of two death sentences, in January 1993. All these decrees were enforced in February 1993, that is, these people have been shot. Being engaged in executions during his stay in power for only a year does not mean humanity and does not match democracy. But those who are now speaking about humanism, human rights, democracy did not speak of them, when got the power in their hands.

As I said before, we stopped the execution of the death sentence since June, 1993 in Azerbaijan. This is not accidental. Despite the fact that the years have been very difficult and hard - it was necessary to protect and preserve the state independence of Azerbaijan and prevent the attacks against it in Azerbaijan. Of course, it demanded to take decisive steps to implement drastic measures. We did it. However, we have not lost our humanity. That is why, we have suspended the execution of the death sentence.

However, I can say that 12 people sentenced to death penalty were pardoned by my decree at the same time. That is, the death sentence against them was replaced by a long period in prisons.

Based on the sentences imposed by the courts from the past to the present day, 128 citizens have been sentenced to death in Azerbaijan. There are people who have committed serious crimes among them. Undoubtedly, those who are sentenced to death are the people who have committed the most serious crimes, but even here there are categories. Among them there are those who killed several people, made a lot of crimes against the state, independence, committed crimes for the destruction of the country.

Despite all this, after a comprehensive analysis of these issues, I have come to a conclusion that in the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan all the articles related to the death sentence must be changed and the death penalty as a punishment should be abolished in Azerbaijan. The punishment of those who are sentenced to death may be replaced by long-term punishment in the proper way.

Therefore, the actual moratorium imposed on the execution of the death penalty, now actually led to the abolition of death penalty in Azerbaijan since June, 1993.

In this regard, on a legislative initiative I send a note to the parliament of Azerbaijan and want to express my hope that the Azerbaijani parliament, will appreciate our humane step and my suggestion on the abolition of capital punishment. Thus, the death penalty in Azerbaijan will be completely abolished.

You can be sure that we shall continue to fight against crime in Azerbaijan, and all the possibilities will be used for this purpose. Our task is to protect the rights of all citizens in Azerbaijan, ensure the peace for the Azerbaijani citizens. We shall carry out this task in the future, continue our humane policy, and the political stability will strengthen in Azerbaijan day by day.

Unfortunately, some people who consider themselves to be a political force live with the old dreams again and want to achieve something with a weapon, force and make such attempts. We are aware of it. But they and all citizens of Azerbaijan should know that Azerbaijan has demonstrated its power both in the country and in the world in the recent years. We are able to protect and maintain socio-political stability in Azerbaijan and will not allow anyone to violate the laws and Constitution of Azerbaijan. The Republic of Azerbaijan, its President are faithful to their words and vows. Law and securirity of citizens of Azerbaijan will always be protected.

Thank you.

Translated from newspaper “Azerbaijan”, January 23, 1998.