Court System in Azerbaijan
Under the Azerbaijani Constitution, in Azerbaijan the judicial power is vested with Azerbaijani courts. Azerbaijani Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, courts of appeal and courts of general and specialized jurisdictions form the Azerbaijani court system. The website www.courts.gov.az provides information about courts and judges in Azerbaijan.
The Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan was established in 1998. No similar court existed in Azerbaijan before. The Constitution sets out powers of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has the authority to decide “constitutional matters”. In particular, the Court may interpret laws and regulations in terms of their compliance with the Constitution. The Court may declare a law or regulation not conforming to the Constitution and, therefore, invalid. The Constitutional Court is vested with the authority to resolve disputes between other branches of government or between government agencies. Ordinary individuals have the right to appeal their cases to the Constitutional Court.
At the lowest level of the hierarchy of Azerbaijan’s court system are the courts of general jurisdiction – called district courts (Azerbaijani: “rayon məhkəmələri”), and specialized courts. District courts, named by the district in which they are located, resolve civil disputes and non-military criminal cases involving imprisonment for not more than 7 years. There are military courts, which consider criminal cases involving military personnel. Crimes for which imprisonment may exceed 7 years are considered by specialized courts for serious crimes.
There are seven economic-administrative courts with each having jurisdiction over cases originating from certain parts of Azerbaijan’s territory. There are two economic-administrative courts in the capital city Baku – Baku Economic-Administrative Court 1 and 2. These courts act as courts of first instance for civil disputes between legal persons, or legal persons and government authorities. They also act as first instance courts for administrative matters – disputes involving decisions of government authorities. Any legal person or individual may challenge decisions, actions of government agencies or their failure to act in economic-administrative courts. The procedure for doing so is set out in the Azerbaijani Code of Administrative Procedure.
A relevant party may appeal decisions of first instance courts (i.e., regional and specialized courts) to courts of appeal. Similar to specialized courts, there are several appellate courts in Azerbaijan each having jurisdiction over certain areas of Azerbaijan’s territory. For instance, the Baku Court of Appeals considers cases originating in Baku city and its neighboring territories. The panel of three judges decides cases in appeal instance courts.
Decisions of appeal courts may be appealed to the Azerbaijani Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is located in the capital city Baku. The Supreme Court is authorized to review only legal matters (as opposed to factual matters) relating to a particular case. Decisions of Supreme Court may be appealed to the Constitutional Court. For most cases, the Supreme Court is the final instance, as the Constitutional Court has the discretion in deciding whether to accept a case for consideration or not.
The Azerbaijani Code of Civil Procedure, which is effective from September 1, 2000, sets out the procedure for submitting and resolving civil disputes in Azerbaijani courts. The Code governs resolution of disputes in all court instances, except for review of cases by the Constitutional Court. “Civil dispute” includes those disputes, which involve claims for damage and property issues.
Any party, who wants to claim damage from another person or wants to protect property rights (plaintiff), may submit in writing a complaint to courts of first instance – i.e., district courts or economic-administrative courts. Economic-administrative courts resolve disputes between legal persons. The written complaint must indicate, among other things, the defendant – the person against whom a plaintiff submits its complaint, address of the plaintiff and reasons for the complaint. The plaintiff must also serve the copy of the complaint to the defendant.
A court commences a civil process based on a written complaint. The court must inform the defendant about the date and time of the proceedings. The court must try to ensure that parties have the equal rights and opportunities to present their cases, evidence and arguments. The court is authorized to solicit opinion of experts and specialists in certain areas, order forensic examination of particular evidence. After hearing arguments and examining evidence, the court must issue its decision.
The party, who disagrees with the decision of the first instance court, may appeal the court’s decision to an appellate court. The appeal must be submitted through the court of first instance – i.e., the disagreeing party must submit the written appeal to the court of first instance, which issued the decision, and the court of first instance must forward the complaint to the respective appellate court. Courts of appeal are authorized to review cases as to legal and factual matters. Despite the authority to appellate courts to consider factual issues, it is important for parties to organize their cases in the first instance court. While appellate courts do consider factual matters, they have limited authority in admitting new evidence. As a result, appellate courts heavily rely on evidences, materials and arguments submitted to the court of first instance.
Decisions of appellate courts may be appealed to the Supreme Court for so-called “cassation review”. The Supreme Court is authorized to review only cases as to legal matters.
Azerbaijan has acceded to the 1958 New York Convention On Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Awards of international arbitrators are generally enforceable in
Azerbaijan. In addition, Azerbaijan has adopted the Law On International Arbitration (International Arbitration Law), which is based on UNCITRAL Model Law On International Commercial Arbitration. This law for the most part governs international arbitration in Azerbaijan. The International Arbitration Law defines “international arbitration”. In particular, arbitration is considered international, if parties to a dispute are located in different countries or parties have expressly agreed that the subject matter of arbitration agreement is related to more than one country. The CCP also governs certain issues relating to international arbitration.
The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan is responsible for the enforcement of arbitral awards. A party wishing to enforce an arbitral award must submit to the Supreme Court a written request for enforcement. The party must attach to its request copy of the arbiter’s decision. The Supreme Court must recognize and enforce the award, unless there are reasons for setting the award aside. The grounds for setting aside an arbitral award is set out in the 1959 New York Convention, and in particular, in Article V. If a party has not been duly informed about the time and place of arbitration and was not able to participate in the proceedings or the arbitration agreement is not valid or the dispute is “non-arbitrable”33, the Supreme Court must refuse to enforce the arbitral award. Additionally, under the CCP, certain issues fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of Azerbaijani courts and may not be resolved through arbitration. For instance, disputes relating to intellectual property registered in Azerbaijan and validity of decisions of corporate body of a legal person registered in Azerbaijan fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of Azerbaijani courts.