Reduction of pensions for condemned prisoners in Azerbaijan
The Court was requested to examine whether Article 109 para. 1 of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic On Pension Maintenance of Citizens, allowing an 80 per cent reduction of pensions for entitled persons who are incarcerated, was inconsistent with the right to social protection, contained in Article 38 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan. According to this article, “Everyone has a right to social security upon reaching the age of majority, in case of sickness, disability, loss of bread-winner, loss of work capacity, unemployment, or in other cases provided by law”. Moreover, a provision of the same pension law limited reductions to a maximum of 50 percent. Both the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (Article 22) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 9) were cited by the judges in the ruling. The Court held that reduction of pensions upon condemnation of prison was not recognized as grounds for deprivation of the right to social security by either domestic or international standards examined, insofar as they contravene principles equality and the right to social security.
This case provided an important elaboration of the right to social security using both domestic and international law. Imprisonment was not considered to have in any way lessened the entitlement to earned public pensions, which were deemed to be non-revocable as long as the recipient was living. Pension entitlements were attributed to the public service (in the form of paid employment either before or during their stay at “corrective-labour institutions”) that allowed for individual contributions to the State Fund of Social Protection. It was also found that the reduction of pensions to 20 percent of the total of free persons was contrary to equality provisions in Article 25 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic because it entailed a certain degree of punishment for family members, through reduction of their social welfare.