ICCPR Case Digest




Submission: 2020.05.25

View Adopted: 2022.07.26

Aykhan Elbai ogly Aliev v. Ukraine

Impossibility of review of a sentence of life imprisonment in Ukraine

Substantive Issues
  • Fair trial
  • Imposition of a death sentence after unfair trial
  • Non-discrimination
  • Torture / ill-treatment
Relevant Articles
  • Article 14.1
  • Article 2 - OP1
  • Article 26
  • Article 7
Full Text


The author of the communication is a national of Azerbaijan serving a life imprisonment sentence in Ukraine after being convicted of murder in 2005. His life sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court of Ukraine while, in 2019, the European Court of Human Rights passed a judgment that it was violative of international obligations to not allow life-sentenced prisoners to request a reduction in their sentences in Ukraine. Due to the judgment, the author filed a motion to the district court, which noted that only a Presidential pardon was allowed after the convict served 20 years and based on criteria such as gravity of the crime, length of the sentence, personality, behaviour and remorse of the convicted person. The author’s request was rejected. He claims the State party violated his rights under articles 7 (torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment), 14 (equality before courts) and 26 (equality before law) of the Covenant.


The author claimed that the State party’s failure to take article 7 into account to consider commuting his life sentence amounted to absence of fairness and impartiality, violating his rights under article 14(1). However, the Committee noted that the author failed to demonstrate arbitrariness and denial of justice, and held this claim inadmissible. As for article 26, due to lack of substantiation, namely that the author had been discriminated against compared to other persons serving life sentences, this claim was also held inadmissible. The Committee considered the remaining claims under article 7 of the Covenant sufficiently substantiated and therefore admissible.


The Committee recalled that article 7 related not only to physical acts of torture but to acts that cause continued mental stress to the victim, and that State parties had a special obligation towards persons deprived of their liberty. It further recalled that, while life imprisonment was an alternative to the death penalty, the absence of a mechanism to review life sentences and the resulting inability of the State party to meaningfully consider and conclusively decide on the case caused continued anguish and mental stress to the author. While the State party provided for Presidential pardon, the Committee considered this to be based on principles of humanity and mercy rather than on penological grounds, therefore lacking predictability and clarity. It concluded that the State party’s treatment of the author amounted to a violation of article 7.


The State Party, in furtherance of its obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy, is obligated, inter alia:

  • (a) to take appropriate steps to provide the author with a meaningful review of his sentence of life imprisonment on the basis of a clear and predictable procedure;
  • (b) to provide adequate compensation to the author; and
  • (c) to take all necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of similar violations in the future.


Deadline: January 26, 2023

By: Smrithi Ramakrishnan

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