In the past decade, the judiciary has been increasingly politicised and involved in discrediting human rights defenders in many places worldwide. In Azerbaijan, Hungary, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela, for example, the balance of powers is no longer existent, which led to a judiciary that is enormously responsive to government policies. As a result, a growing number of judiciaries ignores human rights standards and uses its powers for politically-motivated convictions and charges against regime critics[1]. In particular, criminal justice systems are increasingly used to arbitrarily convict and sentence human rights defenders, thereby forcing them to suspend their activities[2].


It has become common practice in some countries that judges sabotage the right to a fair trial and turn against human rights defenders[3]. In Jafarov v Azerbaijan, for example, the UN Commissioner of Human Rights[4] and the European Court of Human Rights[5] affirmed that the (unlawful) arrest and the lengthy pre-trial detention of Mr. Rasul Jafarov, a prominent human rights defender, were politically-motivated. Both institutions concluded that the charges brought against Mr. Jafarov served the sole purpose of punishing him for his human rights activities. They pointed out that the opening of criminal investigations against Mr. Jafarov for involvement in illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of authority, forgery and embezzlement followed shortly after his participation in a side-event in Strasbourg and strongly criticised the Azerbaijani courts for their convictions which were not determined on the basis of sufficient evidence. Read More