Azerbaijan: Adoption of Council of Europe resolutions is essential for human rights protection and democratic progress

The International Partnership Group, coordinated by ARTICLE 19, along with Amnesty International, several Azerbaijani NGOs and other international organisations urge the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to make a strong call for Azerbaijan to improve its deteriorating human rights record.

On Wednesday 23 January, the vote on two crucial resolutions on Azerbaijan will be an opportunity for the Assembly to show its genuine commitment to its human rights principles.

The first resolution proposes recommendations regarding the honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan, as a member state of the Council of Europe and state party to  the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The recommendations are drawn from a report by PACE Rapporteurs for Azerbaijan, Joseph Debono Grech and Pedro Agramunt, prepared following country visits in April and November 2012.

The report assesses the extent to which Azerbaijan has adhered to commitments made in 2001 and expresses a ‘growing concern with regard to rule of law and respect for human rights’ and calls for the ‘full implementation’ of basic freedoms including the right to freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR), and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association (Article 11 ECHR).

The second resolution focuses on the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, based on a 2012 report prepared by Rapporteur Christoph Strässer, which identified more than 80 cases. The recommendations in that report were adopted by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human rights in June 2012 and calls upon Azerbaijan to speedily resolve the cases on Mr Strässer’s list, and take measures to ensure no future cases of political imprisonment. After his appointment in 2009, Strässer was continuously denied a visa by the Azerbaijani government for three years. This prevented him from entering the country to carry out the necessary research to effectively carry out his mandate. The refusal to cooperate with the special mandate seriously undermined the work of the Rapporteur and also the credibility of the Assembly as the deliberative and driving force of the Council of Europe. It also reflects contempt for Council of Europe mechanisms and a worrying development that non-compliance by member states does not carry any real consequences.

We the undersigned organisations believe the adoption of these resolutions is an essential step in ensuring Azerbaijan complies with its commitments and obligations as a member of the Council of Europe, as well as under other international human rights instruments to which Azerbaijan is party. It is also critical for the credibility of PACE. The issues highlighted below demonstrate the violations of basic human rights that persist in Azerbaijan and which the authorities need to address urgently