Law of Azerbaijan
The legal system of Azerbaijan is based on civil law. As the country was a republic of the Soviet Union until 1991, its legal history has also been influenced heavily by socialist law. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan became independent by enactment of the constitutional act of national independence on October 18, 1991.  Azerbaijan started reformation of the legal system by the establishing of democratic reforms. This was followed by the adoption of the first Constitution in 1995 which is the foundation of the legislative system of the modern country. The Constitution creates the system of presidential republic with a separation of powers among the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of the government in order to prevent abuse of power.
The term civil law in Azerbaijan refers to private law, which is opposed to the common law system of Criminal law and Civil law. The major body of statutes and laws governing civil law and procedure are set out in the Civil Code of Azerbaijan, established in December 1999.
The current Criminal Code of Azerbaijan came into force in September 2000, replacing the older Criminal Code of 1960 which had been based on the principles of Soviet law. Article 1 of the Criminal Code states that "the Criminal legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan consists of this Code. New laws defining criminal responsibility are subject to inclusion in this Code"; this is characteristic of civil law legal systems such as France and Italy. In 1998 Azerbaijan was the first country in the Orient to abolish the capital punishment.
Sources of law
Unlike common law systems such as the United States and United Kingdom, Azerbaijani courts do not rely extensively on case law and judicial precedent. Except for decisions of the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan, decisions of the courts are not usually counted as a source of law. The sources of law in the Azerbaijani legal system are:
- The Constitution of Azerbaijan.
- Acts adopted via referendum.
- Laws passed by the National Assembly of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan's legislature.
- Resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers.
- International treaties to which Azerbaijan is a party.
The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan is a supreme judicial body on civil, criminal and other cases related to the execution of general and specialized courts. The Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan is the supreme body of constitutional justice on the matters attributed to its jurisdiction by the Constitution, with authority to interpret and apply the Constitution of Azerbaijan.
The 1995 constitution provides for public trials in most cases, the presumption of innocence in criminal cases, and a defendant’s right to legal counsel. Both defendants and prosecutors have the right of appeal. In practice, however, the courts are politically oriented, seeming to overlook the government’s human rights violations. In July 1993, Heydar Aliyev ousted the Supreme Court chief justice because of alleged political loyalties to the opposition. The president directly appoints lower level judges. The president also appoints the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges with confirmation by the legislature. Prosecutors (procurators) are appointed by the president with confirmation by the legislature. The minister of justice organizes prosecutors into offices at the district, municipal, and republic levels. The constitution provides equal status for prosecutors and defense attorneys before the courts, but in practice the arrest and investigatory powers of the prosecutors have dominant influence before the courts. Judges will often remand a case for further prosecutory investigation rather than render an innocent verdict. Investigations often rely on obtaining confessions rather than on gathering evidence.
The Azerbaijan government’s human rights record is poor, although some public policy debate is allowed and human rights organizations operate. The government restricts freedom of assembly, religion, and association. Numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, beatings (some resulting in deaths), unwarranted searches and seizures, and other human rights abuses are reported. Political oppositionists are harassed and arrested, and there are dozens of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis contributed to widespread human rights violations by both sides. Some opposition newspapers are allowed to exist.
After gaining of independence Azerbaijani legal system has undergone fundamental reforms. An important part of the legal reforms in the country is related to adoption of a new Constitution in Azerbaijan in 1995. Since that Constitution was amended three times in 2002, 2009 and 2016. Adoption of the Constitution has been followed by reforms related to progressive legislative acts such as, "The Law on Constitutional court", "The Law on Courts and Judges", "The Law on Police", "The Law on Operational-investigational activity", Law Judicial Legal Council, Criminal and Civil Procedure Codes and etc. Moreover, there have been made a number of amendements to the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Criminal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, etc.
Legal reforms introduced new three stage - first instance, appelate and supreme court system in Azerbaijan and ensured its independence from other branches of power. At present, there are district (city) courts acts as the first degree of jurisdictional courts, military courts and local administrative-economic courts as territorial jurisdictional courts, also Court of Azerbaijan Republic on Felonies and Court of Azerbaijan on Grave Military Crimes.
The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan Republic is cassation degree of jurisdiction and consists of 4 chambers - Civil Chamber, Criminal Chamber, Military Chamber and Administrative-Economic Chamber. Court hearings are public, and defendants are free to choose their own attorney and have the right to appeal the verdict. In cases involving national security or other defined by law a judge may decide to hold a closed trial.
Azerbaijan as a member of the Council of Europe ratificated European Convention on Human Rights . Further, Azerbaijani individuals, group of individuals and non-governmental organisations can refer cases to the ECHR.
- Azerbaijan, CIA World Factbook
- The Basic Structure of the Azerbaijan Legislative System
- Case Law in Azerbaijan
- Sources of Azerbaijani law
- Supreme Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan (in Azerbaijani) (in English) (in Russian)