Azerbaijan's worrying human rights record analysed at Council of Europe
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe published a note on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The situation of journalists remains worrying. Rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly remain problematic and are restricted by legislative measures.
Wednesday, 02 May 2012, by HRHF Geneva Office
The information presented in the note was gathered through meetings with government authorities and civil society, including detainees. The note comments on the state of democracy and the situation on human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The rapporteurs draw out four major areas of concern in which Azerbaijan does not comply with European standards: the electoral code, the law on political parties, the law on NGOs, and the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The note highlights the on-going threats to journalists in Azerbaijan, who are frequently victim of harassment and arbitrary detention. The note however surprisingly underlines that the pardon of Eynulla Fatullayev and six other detained journalists in May 2011 is positive, not mentioning that the European Court of Human Rights ordered for Eynulla Fatullayev’s release and that he had been detained on fabricated charges. Human rights defenders, including activists and human rights lawyers, are similarly facing this persecution, with many being detained on false charges, the note reports.
The implications of the changes made to the law on freedom of assembly in 2008 are highlighted in the report; these amendments have seen the arrest and detention of peaceful protesters and the prohibition of public gatherings, in the interest of “public order.”
The right to freedom of association is also being violated in Azerbaijani law. The amendments made to the NGO law in 2009 have introduced tight restrictions on NGO registration which are hindering the valuable work of civil society. The note reminds that the Azerbaijan Human Rights House was closed down because it had not concluded any agreement with the Ministry of Justice on its activities. Other organisations, such as the Insititute for Peace and Democracy were bulldozed without warning, resulting the destruction of the organisation’s office material.
The note evaluates the political system and finds that Azerbaijan falls far below European standards. The two major opposition parties, Musavat and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, are not represented in the parliament. Extra-parliamentary opposition parties report violations of freedom of expression and of assembly, including restrictions to funding, restricted access to public television, and intimidation and harassment. Furthermore, proposed amendments seek to dissolve parties defending ethnic minorities. Overall, the note finds that the current legal and political conditions in Azerbaijan do not support a pluralist democracy.
In regards to the electoral code, the Venice Commission finds that it does not provide equal conditions for electoral campaigns, and is substandard in relation to legal remedies on election related complaints, and the composition of electoral commissions. The note expresses particular concern over these deficiencies in relation to the upcoming election in 2013.
Furthermore, allegations of torture and ill treatment are not being met with thorough investigation by the Azerbaijani authorities. Freedom of expression is being severely restricted by state control and limitation of media outlets, and legislation, which criminalises defamation, is being exploited.
This note is put forward by the Parliamentery Assembly of Council of Europe’s Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States based on a preliminary assessment of the human rights situation in the country by its Rapporteurs, Pedro Agramunt Font de Mora and Joseph Debeno Grech. The Committee is to adopt the full report and submit it for comments to the Republic of Azerbaijan before the adoption of the report at the Parliamentary Assembly plenary session in January 2013.
HRHF Geneva Office
HRHN's advocacy at Council of Europe
The Human RIghts House Network (HRHN) has been actively advocating for strong action by the Council of Europe on the human rights situation in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
At the April 2012 session of the Parliamentary Assembly, a group of Azerbaijani and international NGOs lobbied for strong action on political prisoners in Azerbaijan and for the Council to take action on the situation in the country.
Azerbaijan Human Rights House (Baku), Article 19 (London), Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship (London), Media Rights Institute (Baku), Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy (Baku), Election Monitoring Centre (Baku) and Human Rights House Foundation (Oslo and Geneva) have organised a joint advocacy trip to the April 2012 Parliamentary Assembly session.
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