Azerbaijan remains a transit country for illicit narcotics given its location along major drug trafficking routes from Afghanistan and Iran to Europe and Russia. The country is increasingly favored as a transit route for drugs over neighbors such as Turkey, which has strengthened its border controls in recent years. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated in 2014 that between 5.8 and seven metric tons (MT) of illegal drugs transit Azerbaijan annually, much of it through the country’s southern border with Iran. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also reported in 2014 that it intercepts approximately 10-12 percent of all narcotics transiting the country. As a result of the long-standing dispute with Armenia and the continued occupation by Armenian-backed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani territories, the Government of Azerbaijan has continued to express its concern over its inability to secure international borders in the occupied territories and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Drug seizures and arrest statistics for the first six months of 2015 suggest similar trends from previous years. Over this six-month period, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported investigations of 1807 drug related criminal acts, including 478 drug sales committed by 22 criminal groups consisting of 77 persons. This resulted in over 1250 drug related convictions. Of these convictions, 1115 defendants (88.7 percent) were unemployed and not enrolled in any educational institution. Recidivists accounted for 466 (37.1 percent) convictions, and only 15 convictions (1.2 percent) involved women.
Azerbaijani media reported two large-scale marijuana seizures in early 2015. Over 1.45 MT of marijuana were seized in the Dashkesan region and over 3.6 MT of marijuana in the Goranboy region. Comprehensive seizure statistics for 2015 were not available at the time of this report.
As officially reported, domestic drug use and cultivation exist on a relatively small scale, although the Government of Azerbaijan may underestimate the scope of the problem. Government-sponsored programs targeting drug abuse remain inadequate, and drug treatment centers in Azerbaijan would benefit from increased support.