Improved monitoring report adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
Last night, on 23 June, the Summer 2015 session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) adopted the new monitoring report on Azerbaijan, The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan, Resolution 2062 (2015). From a relatively weak draft presented by the co-rapporteurs from Spain and Poland, the report was significantly improved by the adoption of several important amendments during the session. Most significantly, the report now includes a demand for the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, mentioning several of them by name.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee had an active part in the drafting of and lobbying for the adoption of many of these adopted amendments. NHC was, together with several other international NGOs, including FIDH, Amnesty International and Human Rights House Foundation, present in Strasbourg this week.
The report outlines several of the main challenges related Azerbaijan's human rights record, relating to the commitments the country undertook as members of the Council of Europe.
- We are pleased to see that the issue of the political prisoners, among them prominent journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and democracy activists, now finally have found its place in the PACE Monitoring report. The inclusion could happen thanks to PACE members from several countries, parliamentarians committed to European values and the respect for fundamental human rights, who tok upon them to make sure that the report presented a more true picture of the situation in Azerbaijan today, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says today. -We sincerely hope that the Government of Azerbaijan now takes the the resolution into account and releases political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
According to the report, the Assembly is "alarmed by reports by human rights defenders and international NGOs, confirmed by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, about the intensification of the practice of the criminal prosecution of NGO leaders, journalists, their lawyers and others who express critical opinions, based on the use of alleged charges in relation to their work, especially human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev; head of an election monitoring group Anar Mammadli; veteran activist Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus; founder of the “Sports for Rights” campaign Rasul Jafarov and journalists Khadija Ismayilova and Rauf Mirgadirov. The Assembly calls on the authorities to end the systemic harassment of those critical of the government and to release those wrongfully detained".
PACE continues to call for the Azerbaijani Government to "Put an end to systemic repression of human rights defenders, the media and those critical of the government, including politically motivated prosecutions, allow for effective judicial review of such attempts, and ensure that the overall climate can become conducive to political pluralism ahead of the forthcoming elections in November 2015, and to release all political prisoners, including those who have co-operated with the Parliamentary Assembly".
Read the full report here