Confronting the Gap between the Law and Reality to Protect Women from Domestic Violence
The Advocates welcomes this commentary on Azerbaijan's response to domestic violence by Rovshana Rahimli. Rovshana was a fellow in The Advocates' 2016-18 Legal Training Academy, a project to train Russian-speaking lawyers on defending women's human rights using international and regional mechanisms. In 2018, Rovshana joined The Advocates as its Azeri partner in Geneva to conduct advocacy before the UN and in advance of Azerbaijan's Universal Periodic Review. As Rovshana illustrates, having a domestic violence law is not enough. The law's capacity to protect victims and hold offenders accountable also depends on the effective implementation by those charged with executing the law.
The scourge of domestic violence remains relevant in Azerbaijan as well as in the world. The reasons for this are deep and complex. The exact statistics of victims of domestic violence are not clear. Not all cases are known to the police. So what does the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Prevention of Domestic Violence say?
The law identifies and regulates the measures taken to prevent violence committed by abuse of close kinship, living together, or formerly living together and its negative legal, medical, and social consequences, to provide social protection and legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, as well as to eliminate cases of domestic violence.
According to Paragraph 5.1 of the Rules, if the actions of the perpetrator of domestic violence do not constitute criminal liability, but when the rights and legitimate interests of the victim are violated as a result of these actions, the perpetrator of acts related to domestic violence shall be warned in writing not to repeat the same or similar acts, and a short-term protection order shall be issued for the victim.
According to Paragraph 5.2 of the Rules, the perpetrator is notified within 24 hours of the appeal and a short-term protection order is immediately issued for the victim for a period of up to 30 (thirty) days.
According to Paragraph 5.3 of the Rules, the implementation of the warning on domestic violence is monitored by the decision-making body. Monitoring of the implementation of the warning is carried out by focusing on the actions of the perpetrator of domestic violence, as well as conducting conversations with him/her and the victim (Rules for Consideration of complaints on domestic violence in the absence of elements of a crime in a complaint, approved by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated November 24, 2011, and the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan No. 46 dated February 24, 2012).
Most of the recent questions on this topic focus on the situation of the perpetrator of domestic violence violating the rights and interests of the victim, even if his/her actions do not constitute a criminal offense. The law is clear about this. In this case, the relevant executive authority may issue a written warning to the perpetrator of domestic violence not to repeat the same or similar acts and issue a short-term protection order for the victim. It should specifically be noted that, according to the Presidential Decree and the law in question, the relevant executive authority means the local executive power.
However, in practice, local executive authorities do not fulfill these responsibilities. Consequently, our applications for the issuance of "short-term protection orders" for victims of domestic violence, who I have represented in recent months, are not being investigated. In many cases, applications are considered by the executive authorities within 15 to 30 days, not 24 hours in accordance with the requirements of the law. They do not act operatively and in accordance with the law when considering appeals, and they confuse the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence with the Law on Consideration of Citizens' Appeals (The period in this law is 15-30 days).
Obtaining a protection order has also become difficult. According to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Prevention of Domestic Violence, the relevant executive authority must warn the perpetrator within 24 hours of the appeal and immediately issue a short-term protection order for the victim for a period of up to 30 days. Where the executive authorities fail to carry out the above-mentioned actions in compliance with the law, their omission to act shouldbe considered a serious violation of the law.
By refusing to issue a "short-term protection order", the executive authorities not only reduce the effectiveness of the law but also remain indifferent to the problem faced by victims. As a result of this negligence, these officials either do not see or do not want to see that the lives of the victims are in danger.
For example, on June 8, we appealed to the Narimanov District Executive Power to issue a "short-term protection order". Despite the fact that we were invited to give a statement more than a month ago, we have not yet received a protection order. The response to our request is that the deputy chief executive, who is in charge, is on leave.
However, according to Paragraph 3.1 of the Rules for Consideration of complaints on domestic violence, in the absence of elements of a crime in a complaint, approved by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan No. 46 dated February 24, 2012, a complaint related to domestic violence shall be considered by the local executive authority and a relevant decision shall be made within 5 (five) days. During this period, a preliminary investigation should be conducted in accordance with Article 8 of the Law. If the fact of domestic violence is found, necessary measures should be taken to ensure the safety of the victim and future actions to eliminate domestic violence should be identified.
The response I received from the Narimanov District Executive Power is a good indication of the attitude of those bodies to this Law and the level of implementation of the Law.
In such a case, I kindly request the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Presidential Administration, and other relevant agencies to take these issues in hand.