Call to Council of Europe for human rights in Azerbaijan

A group of Azerbaijani and international NGOs calls upon the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to strongly defend human rights in Azerbaijan.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is to adopt a resolution on political prisoners in Azerbaijan and another resolution on the fulfilment by Azerbaijan of their European obligations and commitments.

A group of partners of the Azerbaijan Human Rights House calls upon PACE to adopt a strong resolution on Azerbaijan, a country that does not show a real willingness to fulfil its commitments and obey to its obligations under the European human rights protection system.

 

Political prisoners

The NGOs warmly welcome the draft resolution on political prisoners.

The report on which the resolution is based thoroughly reflects the documentation done by many national and international human rights organisations on this issue. Although many political prisoners have been released in the end of 2012, the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has not been solved. It is therefore important that the resolution calls upon the Azerbaijani authorities to resolve the cases of all alleged political prisoners as well as to take relevant measures to ensure that no further arrests are not made on politically motivated charges. 

The greater aim of the resolution is therefore to change a system in the country in which authorities use detention of critical voices, including human rights defenders, journalists and activists, with a “revolving door” policy, arresting and detaining some, releasing few others, again and again.

The reference of the lack of cooperation with the Rapporteur should also be underlined in the resolution.

 

Freedom of assembly

The resolution calls for a “compromise solution to allow protest actions in some areas of Baku city centre”. The NGOs cannot accept this vague formulation.

The right to peaceful demonstration is not the consequence of a compromise but a right that can only be restricted in respect with art. 11 of the European Convention. Calling for a compromise is a breach to the right to exercise freedom of assembly and therefore a grave step taken by PACE in weakening a fundamental human right. 

 

Freedom of association and closure of the Azerbaijan Human Rights House

The situation of international and Azerbaijani independent human rights NGOs is quite problematic and indeed authorities regularly threaten those NGOs being critical and use the registration process as a tool to punish critical voices.

The Azerbaijan Human Rights House was ordered to seize all activities on 10 March 2011 by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan. As of today, and to HRHF’s knowledge, there is no change, neither development in the case of the reopening of Azerbaijan Human Rights House.

The group of NGOs therefore calls upon PACE to include a clear call in its resolution to reopon the Azerbaijan Human Rights House, and other national and international NGOs which lost their registration or have been closed by authorities since 2009.

 

Torture and ill treatment and killings within the armed forces

The NGOs welcome the specific attention given to torture and ill treatment in the resolution but regret the silence of the report and the resolution on worrying cases of killings within the armed forces by members of the armed forces, which have resulted in dozens of cases of deaths in non-combat military losses.

We believe that the calls for independent investigations in these cases are important to be heard and that those responsible should be brought to justice.

 

Worrying situation in the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan

Although the report only reports very little about the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, the social and political situation is even more severe in Nakhchivan than in other parts of Azerbaijan, and it is known to be a region that is governed by subjective and partial “rules” instead of the laws.

There are also torture cases, which have been documented, but not been investigated properly. Human rights defenders and victims seeking justice are facing constant pressure. 

The space for civil society is limited and controlled by local authorities and no representative offices international organisations, including of the Council of Europe, can launch their activities in Nakhchivan. 

Documents:

  • Briefing note (PACE, January 2013)
  • Media contacts:

    Florian Irminger (English, French and German)
    Head of Advocacy and HRHF Geneva Office
    Mob.: +41 79 751 80 42 
    French mob.: +33 6 38 79 52 36  

    Ane Tusvik Bonde (English, Norwegian and Russian)
    Regional Manager, Caucasus and Eastern Europe
    Mob.: +47 99 74 39 07

    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 January 2013 session of the Parliamentary Assembly, a group of Azerbaijani and international NGOs is lobbying for strong action on political prisoners in Azerbaijan and for the Assembly to take action on the situation in the country.

    The following NGOs, all partners and members of the Azerbaijan Human Rights House and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders submitted a joint briefing note to PACE members and will work on the implementation of the adopted resolutions:

    • Azerbaijan Lawyers Association
    • Democracy and HR Resource Centre Public Union (Sumgait)
    • Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan
    • Human Rights Club
    • Institute for Peace and Democracy
    • Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS)
    • Legal Education Society
    • Media Rights Institute
    • Nakhchivan Regional Resource Centre for NGO Development and Democracy
    • Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy
    • Polish Helsinki Foundation For Human Rights
    • Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

     

    International Partnership Group advocacy:

    The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) also urged PACE to make a strong call for Azerbaijan to improve its deteriorating human rights record, by adopting the resolutions on political prisoners and on the overall human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

    IPGA is a coalition of international NGOs working to promote and protect freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

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