Why did the pardon Order not affect political prisoners?

On May 25, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed an order pardoning 154 convicts, but the decision notably excluded political prisoners, raising questions and sparking criticism from human rights advocates.

According to the presidential decree, 63 individuals sentenced to imprisonment were released from their remaining sentences, while 52 had their sentences halved. Additionally, one individual with a suspended sentence was freed, 28 people under restriction of liberty were released, three had their sentences halved, two sentenced to correctional labor were released from punishment, four fined individuals were freed from penalties, and the criminal record of one person who had served their sentence was expunged.

However, Rasul Jafarov, head of the Baku Human Rights Club, voiced disappointment over the exclusion of political prisoners from the pardon list during a discussion on the program "A Difficult Question." Jafarov acknowledged the humanitarian aspect of the pardon but lamented that a list submitted by his organization in April, which included the names of 39 political prisoners, was not considered.

"We regret that compared to the pardon orders of previous years, the current one is more limited and local in nature," Jafarov said, suggesting that political reasons might explain the exclusion. He highlighted that while the Azerbaijani government denies the existence of political prisoners, those detained for political reasons are typically included in pardon lists following negotiations with the European Union.

The formation of this year's pardon list was influenced by several international factors. In January 2024, the refusal of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) deputies to ratify the powers of the Azerbaijani delegation played a significant role. Furthermore, the introduction of the "Azerbaijan Sanctions Act 2024" in the US Congress last month, which proposes sanctions against 44 high-ranking Azerbaijani officials for their roles in the Karabakh conflict and human rights violations, also negatively impacted the list's composition.

Jafarov did not rule out the possibility of another pardon order at the end of the year that might include political prisoners. He also criticized the "Azerbaijan Sanctions Act 2024" as unfair and unrelated to human rights protection, although he acknowledged concerns over the PACE decision, linking it to human rights violations, the persecution of opposition politicians and independent media, and actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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