Member of the Armenian delegation to the Parliamentary Assmebly to the Council of Europe delivered a speech at PACE plenary sitting. The full text of the speech is below:
May I thank both rapporteurs, Mrs. Mailis REPS and Mr. Yves Cruchten for the massive work laying behind the reports and draft resolutions submitted to our consideration and this joint debate today. It is another example that this House is consistent to address its core values unless they are safeguarded in a sustainable manner across the Council of Europe.
It is evident that the existence of dynamic civil society is crucial to a democratic state, and respect for fundamental rights, particularly, the right of free expression, the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of association is vital to the proper functioning of civil society. In this respect, the growing tendency to limit NGOs’ activities and attacking and politically prosecuting or jailing human rights defenders in a couple of member states, more drastically in the neighboring Azerbaijan, an increasing black spot on the human rights map of Europe, is more than concerning.
Both reports illustrate in the way best possible where we stay there in Azerbaijan in terms of democracy: heavily increased legal and administrative restrictions for NGOs, ongoing crackdown of the germs of civil society, dozens of politically motivated cases of prosecution and jailing of all those who are critical of the Azerbaijani government and Aliyev family. One may become surprised at this House of Democracy to hear about the legal restrictions posed on civil society organizations in Azerbaijan. In order to establish a local branch the international NGOs are legally oppressed to conclude an agreement with the Ministry of Justice about respecting “national moral values” and “not getting involved in political propaganda”. It is obvious and the rapporteurs confirm it, that it is impossible to define these provisions clearly, which in fact serves a pretext for criminal prosecution of all those who demonstrate any criticism towards Aliyev regime.
All the proactive international NGOs, which have done a lot, along with the Council of Europe and European Union for nursing the germs of civil society in post-soviet area, including Armenia, namely Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Transparency International and others are labeled by the government and our Azerbaijani colleagues sitting next to us here at the Assembly to use double standards towards Azerbaijan, making false claims in their reports thus trying to argue the validness of the harsh restrictions of their activities in Azerbaijan. Even more, civil society organizations are deliberately denied of access to foreign funding: it is legally binding to get the permission of the Minister of Justice to get funding exceeding the amount of 180 Euros let alone the policy of turning down applications of all those NGOs for registration which are critical of the government of Aliev’s autocratic regime.
Making reference to our region, one may say that the reports are not about the inappropriate restrictions on NGOs’ activities and the human rights defenders being prosecuted but also about the perspectives of peace. In the case of our region democracy means more. Let me be clear. The dominating Goebbels-style state propaganda, when Armenians are declared to be the enemies of the Azerbaijani nation world-over, and having murderer Ramil Safarov declared to be a national hero and an true example for younger generations, all those who speak about peace and the need to find a diplomatically negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem are labeled and treated as “betrayers of Azerbaijan spying for Armenia”. State propaganda puts all these people to be betrayers of Azerbaijan refreshing our memory back from the brutal Stalin era. My time will not be enough to name all these victims.
We should send a clear message President Aliyev, one of the last dictators in our continent, to put an end to systematic repression of human rights defenders, the media and those critical of his government and his family.
Colleagues, again, democracy means more in our region.
Many thanks for your attention.