PACE Resolution: Azerbaijan remains under monitoring to final commitments to the CoE

PACE on Wednesday evening at the plenary session of the winter session in Strasbourg considered two reports on Azerbaijan. One of them, prepared by the rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee Pedro Agramunt (Spain) and Joseph Gresh (Malta) referred to implementation of Azerbaijan's commitments to the Council of Europe. Second report on the German political prisoners was made by Deputy Christoph Strasser.

First speakers presented their reports. Further the papers were discussed in parallel.

Agramunt said that the report had already been approved at the December 12 meeting of the Monitoring Committee. He called it balanced, recalling that in the last 5-6 years, similar instruments for monitoring the commitments of Azerbaijan were taken.

Strasser, in turn, drew attention to the title of his report, "the follow-up to address the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan."

"This is an important political message of the Parliamentary Assembly, since the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, is still unresolved, despite the fact that 14 people from my report at the end of last year had been pardoned," said Strasser.

In discussing the report Agramunt and Gresh generally found support.

Diametrically opposed opinions divided about the report by Strasser.

MP Anne Brasseur of Luxembourg noted that, despite the progress in Azerbaijan in the implementation of the commitments, the country does not still have a long way. At the same time, it welcomed the report by Strasser. "We welcome the release of the prisoners, but the list is updated with new prisoners. Arresting people for their beliefs is not acceptable," said Brasseur.

She condemned the failure to provide visas to Strasser. She called as unacceptable to call the deputies supporting Strasser, "anti-Azerbaijan lobby."

"Our goal is to work together. All countries should comply with the requirements. Unacceptable is the refusal of a visa to visit the country.

At the same time, the British MP Robert Walter, called the report by Agramunt and Gresh serious, but criticized the report by Strasser. "His report is based on blogs and NGO reports. I think it discredits our work. We should reject the report by Strasser," said Walter.

However, the deputy Katrin Werner of Germany called wrong not issuing a visa to the rapporteur for the monitoring. In the countries of the Council of Europe should not be political prisoners, they should be released, said Werner.

MP Luca Volonte of Italy, agreeing with the statement of progress in Azerbaijan in the report by Agramunt and Gresh, however, expressed concern over the problems of the judiciary, freedom of expression, attacks on journalists and political prisoners.

He also supported the report by Strasser. "We need to talk about political prisoners to address the problem," said the Italian deputy.

MP from Germany Viola von Gramon-Taubadel said that some prisoners had already served a sentence, and some died in prison. At the same time, there are new political prisoners.

In her view, the justice department of Azerbaijan is not in line with European principles and standards.

MP Lise Christofersen from Norway noted that the country continues to restrict freedom of assembly, on trumped up charges persecuted journalists and activists, they are under constant threat. Norwegian MP highlighted human rights activist from Nakhichevan Republic (NAR) Malahat Nasibova, whose two children are in Norway as refugees.

NAR continues to intimidate the remaining another daughter of Nasibova.

 "I have repeatedly warned to stop. This casts doubt on the prestige of the Council of Europe," said Christophersen.

MP from France Jean-Marie Bockel said that the report by Strasser is not complete, adding that he would not vote for him.

Another French deputy Rene Rouquet drew attention to the problem of internally displaced persons and their future is not clear due to the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Member of Azerbaijani delegation Rovshan Rzayev rejected the Strasser report, stating that Azerbaijan does not prosecute people for their beliefs. "We hope to help colleagues in building democracy. It would be good for Strasser to visit Azerbaijan and see all with his own eyes," said Rzayev.

MP Marina Schuster of Germany expressed the view that the two reports complement each other and called for this. "Our Assembly instructed to check the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, he was unable to enter the country and we should not tolerate it," said Schuster.

MP Boris Spiegel of Russia said that the emphasis on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is the policy of double standards. The CE carries control in these countries for very long, not paying attention to violations in Western countries.

Deputy of France Jacques Legendre drew attention to the fact that Armenia has also been condemned four opponents. "We need to talk about violations in all countries", he added.

Deputy of Armenia Aripne Hovhannisyan stated that the report of the Monitoring Committee hides the flaws in the country and justify the position of the authorities, including the Karabakh conflict.

In response to criticism of the Armenian deputies Agramunt later in his concluding remarks said that the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia is a fact.

The Azeri delegation's head Samed Seyidov criticized discussion of two reports on one country, noting that he for the first time sees it in PACE. Council of Europe was set up for the countries and not against them. "How can we vote for the report by Strasser, when he presented a very strange one. In his report, there are people that do not exist at all. We are not against Strasser, but against the report. His report undermines the values ​​of Europe as a whole", said Seyidov.

The representative of Canada (Canada is a special guest member) Corneliu Shisu expressed concern that not once elections in Azerbaijan have not been assessed as democratic.

He noted the need for changes to the Electoral Code, because in this way it would undermine the validity of the elections.

Canadian MP also said about corruption, lack of transparency of government agencies, the lack of political pluralism. "Canada believes that corruption - a major obstacle to trade with Azerbaijan. We supported the resolution to facilitate the work of NGOs. We continue to urge Azerbaijan to respect human rights," said the MP from Canada.

Summing up the discussion, Strasser said that when he carried out his mission, his reason was not invited to Azerbaijan, and now blamed for the fact that he visited the country.

"I was not allowed to visit the country, and I am accused of subjectivity. My report is based on in-depth study. My report is not opening the door to terrorists (the Russian Leonid Slutsky said this, as well as several other members). We received information from completely different sources. We have to work for a fair fate of the arrested," said Strasser.

However, the resolution on the report by Strasser was not accepted. It was supported by 74 deputies with 125 votes against.

Nevertheless, the requirement of addressing the problem of political prisoners in the report by Agramunt and Gresh was adopted by 196 votes in favor with two against.

In particular, it is proposed to review the cases of imprisoned journalists and activists, the legality of criminal prosecution which has been questioned by local and international human rights bodies. It is recommended to use all available legal tools to free the prisoners.

They recommended release on humanitarian grounds of alleged political prisoners whose state of health is a concern. We also recommend that the full realization of the previous PACE resolutions relating to alleged political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

PACE resolution also recommends improving the electoral system of Azerbaijan on the basis of proposals ODIHR and the Venice Commission, the removal of obstacles to the registration of NGOs, facilitating the registration of international NGOs, providing conditions for the creation of opposition faction in parliament, etc.

The resolution also states the unresolved Karabakh conflict and supports the settlement of the conflict based on UN Security Council resolutions, and the decisions of PACE, OSCE, and European Parliament.

The resolution recognizes the need to keep Azerbaijan under the PACE monitoring to full implementation of the commitments to the CoE. -06D -


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