Azerbaijan needs forensic examination reforms: experts

Society Materials 16 December 2009 19:20 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 16 Trend K. Zarbaliyeva /

There are serious differences in terms of establishing independent forensic analysis institutions in Azerbaijan. Some experts say such institutions should not be operated by the government, and should instead function independently. Other experts say the validity of expert conclusions will be called into question by creating alternative institutions.

Forensic examinations are conducted by the Justic Ministry's Forensic Center and Forensic and Pathological Anatomy Association in Azerbaijan.

Lawyer Kamandar Nasibov said the sphere is completely monopolized by the state, and expert conclusions are sometimes biased.

"There is no such structure in Azerbaijan where conclusions are taken at the same level as the Justice Ministry's facilities. Conclusions from independent experts are not accepted by our courts. They accept expert assessments with incomplete answers to the questions posed to the expert as evidence," the lawyer told Trend

Nasibov said there is no legal requirement binding state institutions to give expert conclusions.

He added said that expert conclusions related to construction and land assessments are biased.

However, Nasibov called forensic medical examinations objective, although he did not exclude the possibility of investigative agency interference.

"Experts often provide conclusions after receiving an order from the investigation. An expert can not give a conclusion without the approval of the investigating authorities," the lawyer said.

Lawyer Fuad Agayev said state forensic institutions in some cases do not provide objective assessments. On the contrary, they act on the instructions of investigators and prosecutors.

"Experts answer questions that do not fall within their sphere of competency, and they express unprofessional assessments of legal issues," Agayev said.

The lawyer added that biased, unfounded expert conclusions lead to human rights violations.
He said that it is necessary to correct the process to conduct expertise and the accountability of experts to improve the situation. However, it is impossible to quickly solve this problem by creating alternative structures.

"Even if the authority is given to the experts of alternative structures, the investigating authorities and the courts will charge state experts with conducting expertise. A lawyer will not be able to get independent expert conclusion. The law does not envisage such a possibility. Lawyers must get authorities to apply to alternative expert structures to get evidence legally. In some cases materials of the case are required for the expertise. The courts will not agree to provide these materials to alternative structures," Agayev said.

He said that the courts often do not take into account the evidence given by lawyers about the bias of the expert assessment.

Supreme Court JudgeAsad Mirzaliyev considers it possible to create alternative expert  structures. But he does not consider it necessary because of the lack of serious problems in the field of forensic expertise in Azerbaijan.

"In practice I have not faced such serious problems associated with the expertise. There are specific problems in this area, but they are not serious. Nevertheless, it would be good to create independent centers of expertise," Mirzaliyev said.

The judge said that if the expert conclusion is not sufficiently clear and justified, the law allows conducting a repeata, complex expertise.

"The law did not specify exactly where to apply to conduct expertise and what experts must give conclusions," Mirzaliyev said.

The judge said the objectivity of forensic expertise is in the public interest.

An expert conclusion is only one of the evidence, which the court ultimately can not accept.

"But it cannot be a reason to bring an expert to liability. However, if the expert knowingly submitted a false conclusion, he must be brought to liability," Mirzaliyev said.

As opposed to his colleague, Supreme Court Judge Muzaffar Aghazadeh opposes the creation of independent centers of expertise. In his view, it can lead to confusion due to different expert conclusions.

"We have no expert arbitrator who will compare these conclusions and determine which of them is the objective one. Which of these opinions must the court believe? In my opinion, the creation of such structures would lead to confusion. The processes will be deliberately delayed," Aghazadeh said.

The judge said the state's control prevents the submission of fraudulent expert conclusions.

"What can harm the interests of the state for it to affect the results of the expertise?" An expert conclusion is not sufficient evidence for trial. These conclusions are of little importance for the court rather than witnesses' evidence. The court can approve these conclusions or not as evidence. Now all insulators, prisons, hospitals are open. It is difficult to falsify the facts," Aghazadeh said.

He said that if alternative structures are created, experts from these agencies will not be liable for given conclusions.

"A conclusion will be given in favor of person who will give more money. There are problems with the forensic psychiatric examination. The killers often try to obtain false expert conclusions and avoid responsibility. State experts give these conclusions. If a state expert deceives the state, what we can expect from an expert, acting on a voluntary basis? Before, in case of any doubt about the reliability of expert conclusion, we sent it to Moscow. There is no such a possibility to verify the objectivity of an expert conclusion now," Aghazadeh said.

He said the expert conclusions are fairly objective, especially those relating to forensic medical examination.

There is no need to establish private institutions of court expertise, Justice Ministry Forensic Center head Fuad Javadov  said in an interview with Trend .

"Independent experts have no opportunity to conduct research and issue research-based conclusions, as our center does. At present, it is impossible to establish the independent expert institutions," Javadov said.

He said that alternative expert conclusions are given only in the assessment of houses in Azerbaijan. These structures assess a flat, relying only on information received from the realtors, without applying any methodology, scientific approach, Javadov added. As a result, these conclusions lead to disputes, he added.

He said that the expert must be a professional. A structure, giving a conclusion, must be provided with equipment that meets standards. A scientific approach is required in this area, Javadov said.

Javadov said an expert is responsible for deliberately providing false conclusions. As opposed to private experts, state experts have a moral responsibility. If the forensic investigative body reports a mistake made during the examination, the expert in accordance with the law will be punished by the leadership of the institution.

"If private expert institutions are set up in Azerbaijan, very serious problems will occur. The creation of alternative structures is not a way out," Javadov said.

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