PACE must cancel its monitoring mission to Azerbaijan
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is planning to monitor the 1 November parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly opposes such a decision.
-PACE should cancel its monitoring mission, and state publicly that its reason for doing so is the current dire situation for human rights in country, says secretary general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Bjørn Engesland.
Currently there are 80 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, among them long term NHC partner Anar Mammadli, director of the independent election observation organisation EMDS and board member of European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), where also the NHC is a member.
The European Parliament, the OSCE´s Office for Democratic Institutions (OSCE/ODHIR), and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) have all cancelled their monitoring missions. To avoid even further devastation of PACE´s credibility in Azerbaijan and internationally, PACE should do the same.
A PACE pre-electoral mission visit to Baku 21 and 22 September also raises concern about the impartiality of PACE delegates. In its statement after the mission, the delegates Jordi Xuclà, Aleksandar Nikoloski, Egemen Bagis and Agustín Conde do not mention the critical human rights situation in the country, do not comment on the total extinction of free and independent mass media in the country, do not mention the repression against independent election observers and do not see the point in critically assessing the assurement of the Azerbaijani authorities "that all necessary measures will be undertaken to guarantee the transparency of the electoral process". The pre-electoral statement of those PACE delegates raises serious doubts on the professionality if not the impartiality of the participating PACE delegates.
PACE should not be used as a tool to legitimise the upcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, which are clearly illegitimate, and will only serve to enable further repression in the country. Instead PACE should carefully consider its role and responsibilities with regard to Azerbaijan.