Europe of Human Rights

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This week (on Wednesday 23 January) the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will vote on two resolutions concerning Azerbaijan, the first on political prisoners, the second devoted to obligations and commitments  relating to Azerbaijani membership in the Council of Europe.

The situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has been the subject of interest of the Parliamentary Assembly ever since Azerbaijan acceded the Council of Europe. Solving the problem of political prisoners by their freeing or by new court proceedings in the cases of persons who are recognised as political prisoners by human rights organizations was one of the obligations which Azerbaijan assumed upon acceding the European Convention on Human Rights. Although 10 years have passed since the accession, politically motivated arrests are still practiced in Azerbaijan. According to the most recent information, it is suspected that at least in 71 cases arrests were politically motivated. Eight of those who were arrested are journalists: Avaz Zeynalli, Hilal Mammadov, Faramaz Allahverdiyev, Vugar Gonagov, Zaur Guliyev, Araz Guliyev, Nijat Aliyev and Fuad Huseynov. The case of Hilal Mammadov is a good example of the methods adopted by Azerbaijani authorities. H. Mammadov (born in 1959) is a human and minority rights activist, he is also the Editor-In-Chief of Tolishi Sedo, the only daily paper issued in Azerbaijan in the Talysh language. He was arrested on charges of drug possession on 21 June 2012 and faces 3 to 12 years in prison.

The Parliamentary Assembly expressed its opinion on the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan on several occasions. The issue was dealt with in Resolutions 1359 (2004) and 1457 (2005), as well as in Recommendations 1711 (2005). It was also the issue of Resolution 1900 (2012) on the definition of “political prisoner”, adopted on 3 October 2012. Azerbaijani authorities have not made use of the opportunity to provide their views on the list of names of the alleged political prisoners presented by the Rapporteur on Political Prisoners of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. From the moment of appointing the Special Rapporteur, the Azerbaijani government refused to issue him the visa required to visit the country as part of his mandate, which significantly hindered the preparation of the report.

The MPs will have a difficult task on Wednesday, especially taking into ocnsideration the controversies and lively debate on the occasion of the resolution on the “definition of political prisoner” adopted in October 2012. However, failure on the side of Azerbaijani authorities to solve the problem of political prisoners, against the recommendations formulated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe upon accession, and no willingness to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur should not remain unresponded on the part of the Assembly. Additionally, the report “Caviar Diplomacy – How Azerbaijan silenced the Council of Europe” revealed the way Azerbaijan acts in the Parliamentary Assembly. The more so, it is necessary for the Assembly to take on Wednesday a clear standpoint with respect to the country.

Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, “Europe of Human Rights”