PACE: Concerns persist regarding the human rights situation in Azerbaijan

Since the Azerbaijani Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May-November 2014) and the adoption by the PACE of Resolution 2062 (2015), concerns persist regarding the human rights situation and the functioning of justice in Azerbaijan, according to the Legal Affairs Committee.

Unanimously approving a resolution based on a report by Alain Destexhe (Belgium, ALDE) today, the committee expressed concern about “the reported prosecution and detention of NGO leaders, human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, bloggers and lawyers, on the basis of alleged charges relating to their work”.

The committee notes with great concern reports linking the Azerbaijani government to a large scale money loundering scheme occurring in the years of 2012 until 2014, used inter alia to influence the work of members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as regards the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. It urges the Azerbaijani authorities to start an independent and impartial inquiry into these allegations without delay and furthermore, cooperate fully with competent international authorities and bodies on this issue.

The parliamentarians are also worried by the cases established by the ECHR of “torture and inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest, in police custody and in prisons, and the lack of effective investigations, violations of the right to a fair trial, and violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly”. At the same time, they welcome the Presidential Executive Order of February 2017 on improving the functioning of the prison system and the humanisation of criminal policies.

In spite of the reforms of the judicial system initiated by the Azerbaijani authorities, the Legal Affairs Committee is concerned about allegations of a lack of independence of the judiciary vis-à-vis the executive; the arbitrary application of criminal law; the excessive use of pre-trial detention by judges; and the problems in ensuring the rights of the defence.

In addition, the text adopted refers to allegations relating to “a restrictive climate” for extra-parliamentary activities of the opposition and “limitations on the freedoms of expression and association”, in particular with regard to independent media and advocates of freedom of expression.

The committee also notes that little progress has been made regarding the execution of the judgments of the Court – more than 120 judgments have not yet been fully executed – and urges the authorities to execute the judgment and release Ilgar Mammadov as soon as possible.

The draft resolution adopted, which is to be debated in plenary on 11 October 2017, calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to continue the reforms of the judicial system and to remove the obstacles to the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

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