Thorhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir

Thorhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir


- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution the “Case on information related to political prisoners in Azerbaijan”. How was the discussion of the resolution? Was there any difficulty in adopting the resolution?

-Discussions generally went fine. If to look at the number of votes needed to pass a resolution, you can see that two-thirds voted “for”. In December last year, at a meeting of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, it was adopted unanimously. By the way, even the representative of the Azerbaijani delegation to this committee, Samed Seyidov, voted in favor of this resolution. During the January 30 vote, most noted the importance of adopting a resolution. The resolution is not against Azerbaijan; on the contrary, this document is in favor of Azerbaijan, it indicates the need to solve the problems existing there. This was also evident in the speaker's speech. There were specific proposals that none of us would like Azerbaijan to leave the CE, PACE. On the contrary, we wish to strengthen further cooperation. However, this should not be just cooperation; it should lead to certain results. This resolution very clearly answers the question of what results this cooperation should lead. In this sense, the adoption of the resolution did not encounter any serious obstacles. The expectations were such that it would be accepted with ease. This expectation arose in the context of events that took place particularly after the non-adoption of the resolution in 2013. Mostly the delegations of Russia and Turkey voted against the resolution. Despite the fact that more than 20 people voted against, their votes could not affect the adoption of the resolution. At PACE, everyone knows that neither Russian members nor members of the Turkish delegation read this resolution. Just general political relations demanded to vote against the resolution. So simple.

In addition to the Turkish and Russian delegations, two members of the Polish delegation and one Italian voted against the resolution. By the way, two or three members of the Italian delegation abstained. Unlike 2013, this was not widespread. Therefore, it is impossible to bring unequivocally forward the accusation that there is any kind of systemic planning. Initially, suspicions may arise. In the absence of need to investigate this issue seriously is impossible. Now we are trying, through human rights organizations in Italy and Poland, to establish ties with these members of the delegations in order to inquire about the reason for voting against this resolution. It is possible that something was not clear to them until the end. Maybe they could not understand the basis of the arguments voiced. Maybe they will need to send reports, provide some additional information. Deputy Asim Mollazadeh, speaking during the vote, told a lie, stating that this list contains the names of people who intended to commit terror on the eve of the Eurovision contest. This is an absolute lie. In fact, none of this group of persons are included in the lists of political prisoners. Maybe those who voted against the resolution believed this statement. That is why we will try to clarify this issue with our partner organizations in these countries.

-On January 30, the Bundestag deprived parliamentary immunity of the deputy of the Christian Democratic Union from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Karin Strenzi. Last year, the parliament fined her 20 thousand euros. She is accused of receiving a bribe of at least 22 thousand euros for lobbying the interests of Azerbaijan in PACE. Do you think this is reasonable information? On the other hand, maybe, according to the Azerbaijani authorities, this is part of the campaign of blackening Azerbaijan.

-This statement about the campaign of blackening is so groundless that everyone is already tired of listening to statements about it. However, unfortunately, the opposing side does not get tired of repeating it.  There are many large and small political groups in the Council of Europe. There are delegations representing 47 countries, people with different political views that are different from each other. It is impossible for all of them, for all political groups, deputies representing all countries, to participate in this campaign of blackening, if it really exists. It is impossible. The question arises. Was these countries arrested by political prisoners? May be the people who allegedly organized the blackening campaign created the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan? In any case, the essence of the issue rests on the existence of the problem of political prisoners. The presence of such a problem is already an undeniable fact, since there is a decision of the European Court on this score, proving that political decisions were made in Azerbaijan. Persons for whom a measure of restraint was arrested were sentenced for long periods. These are facts that have been confirmed at the level of the European Court and the essence of the matter is this. The resolution focuses on paragraphs 16, 17 and 19, which specifically states that in connection with the presence of the EU decision, there is no doubt about the existence of the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Therefore, this statement about the blackening campaign is just an argument in order to confuse people. What is happening in Germany also cannot be a campaign of blackening. The German government and its law enforcement agencies have nothing to do but prepare a blackening campaign against Azerbaijan. This is an unthinkable statement. The names of the accused are not new. When the report of the independent group created in the CE was published two years ago, there were exchanges of these people who were specifically accused of corruption. The difference is that the CE is not a law enforcement agency; its job is to disseminate reports. According to the rules of procedure, the CE removes members whose names are involved in corruption. Then the issue is decided by law enforcement agencies of European countries. German law enforcement agencies took this issue seriously, starting an investigation. I believe that because of the investigation in other European countries, the names of deputies selling their political influence and taking illegal actions will become known. In fact, many of them are mentioned in the report. There just has to be a process of giving a legal assessment. We hope that the law enforcement agencies of these countries will give the necessary legal assessment.

-When Strasser resolution was not adopted, political arrests in Azerbaijan increased even more. However, this time a resolution was adopted. In your opinion, what will happen next?

-After the resolution was not adopted in 2013, the authorities took very serious repressive measures, which continued until the end of 2014. Unfortunately, the rejection of that resolution negatively affected the processes in our country. Saying something is difficult right now. Our expectations are related to the fact that the issues reflected in the resolution, albeit in stages, but begin to find their solution. It takes only two steps. The first is the release of political prisoners, the second is the creation of such a legal system and the manifestation of political will so that there are no more political prisoners in Azerbaijan. This is not new, since local and international organizations have been making such calls for many years. We hope that the resolution adopted on January 30 will be an additional contribution and support to these calls. Positive changes will occur, albeit in stages, but the issue of political prisoners will be resolved finally.

-What will happen if Azerbaijan does not meet the requirements of the resolution? Will there be any sanctions? What other international organizations, besides PACE, can apply sanctions against Azerbaijan or put forward demands?

-In view of the adoption of the resolution, the mandate of the rapporteur is extended for another year. During the year, he is authorized, and these powers are given to him by PACE, to monitor, study issues related to political prisoners and apply appropriate measures for the enterprise. Some direct sanctions are not provided. There is no sanction mechanism for non-enforcement of a resolution. However, failure to comply with the issues reflected in the resolution may lead to sanctions on a different line. For example, failure to comply with the decisions of the European Court in full may lead to sanctions by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe has two types of sanctions. Freezing the voting rights and other rights of the delegation and withdrawing the country from the organization. Nobody wants the latter. Even Azerbaijan is not interested in this. Therefore, you need to try so that the problems find their solution. At the same time, PACE, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General have jointly prepared a mechanism of procedures for the implementation by member countries of their obligations. Failure to comply with the requirements of the resolution may be considered as failure to fulfill obligations. At the same time, PACE has the right to raise the issue of not approving the credentials of members of delegations of member countries. If the issues reflected in the resolution cannot be resolved, the Council of Europe itself can take these steps without the Committee of Ministers. That is, we are talking about freezing voting rights and other rights. The Committee of Ministers can do this if the requirements of the European Court are not met. We hope that there will be no need to launch these mechanisms, and the issues will be resolved. Twenty-seven countries represented in the Council of Europe are also EU members. It also means that the countries represented in the EU will at least take one position - in the context of the call for the execution of the decisions of the European Court, assuming the presence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

-What steps should the Azerbaijani authorities take? What needs to be done to improve the country's image?

-The Azerbaijani authorities must improve their image. Especially in the Council of Europe. On the issue of political prisoners, two steps are necessary. Firstly, the immediate release of persons in respect of whom there is no doubt that they are political prisoners. Secondly, in investigative and judicial structures, comprehensive measures should be implemented to eliminate previously committed systematic violations. Political persecution should be stopped based on trumped-up charges against people with opposition or representing the opposition. To do this, you need to start with the investigation. The investigation should be combined in a single structure. Separate ministries and structures should be deprived of investigative powers. Those who passed through the procedure of specialized exams should be allowed into this single investigative structure. Exams should have serious public scrutiny. Investigators and judges whose names were negatively mentioned in the decisions of the European Court should be removed from their posts. Numerous complaints come about torture and inhuman treatment during the investigation. These complaints must be dealt with objectively and comprehensively, and an appropriate legal assessment must be given. At the same time, not cosmetic, but fundamental changes should be made in the judicial system, judges should be given full independence, and  they should be completely free, so as not to deprive anyone of their liberty on unfounded charges.


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