There is no alternative to the release of all political prisoners

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-What do you think about the last pardon order?

- Order for pardon is one of the legal measures to resolve the issue of political prisoners. For years, the problem of political prisoners harms the national interests of Azerbaijan, as a state and as a country. The current order does not resolve the issue as a whole, however, pardoning 52 people at once, including those from the list whose release seemed unlikely (10 people passing through the Nardaran events, including those sentenced to long terms), gives grounds to argue about possible positive in this matter. Presumably, these measures will be continuous, measures will be taken to release all political prisoners. In the current situation, this assumption is good, but serious measures are needed to implement it.

- Under this order for pardon 52 people were released from the list of political prisoners. This happened for the first time. What does it mean? Do you think it is the desire of the authorities to end this problem once and for all, or to show the West that something is being done in this direction?

- Here is a number of reasons. Both inside and outside the country there were issues through which the authorities were brought to the importance of solving the problem of political prisoners. For example, the question of the new charge against political prisoner Mehman Huseynov at the end of last year. The public reaction showed that ordinary citizens, regardless of political affiliation, seriously protested.

Through authorized and unauthorized actions, intensive and long-term activities in social networks, people showed that they were tired not only of social and economic problems, but also of problems created against political prisoners. As for the foreign moment, this is the planned signing of a bilateral strategic agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan. The European Parliament with its August 2018 and January 2019 resolutions, that is, two resolutions for six months, openly messaged that if the issue of political prisoners is not fully resolved in Azerbaijan, the planned agreement will not be ratified, and without ratification it does not have a legal force. Neither Azerbaijan, nor the EU need the document that does not have legal force. Plus, the PACE rapporteur for political prisoners, whose activities are gradually beginning to expand. This speaker in January has already submitted his primary list, and this process will continue. In addition, Azerbaijan has its obligations under which the co-rapporteurs are working. A serious message for the government of Azerbaijan was the fact that the country was leaning in a corruption scandal in the Council of Europe - supposedly voluntarily assumed obligations, let them observe and solve the problem with political prisoners.

"But political prisoners are still under arrest, and this question worries many people. Why were some released and some imprisoned? That is, those who find it difficult to understand the philosophy of pardon constitute the majority. In your opinion, why were some released and some not? What is the criterion in the question of liberation?

- Frankly speaking, it is also difficult for me to understand the criterion by which political prisoners are subject to pardon. Ideally, according to the approach of human rights defenders, there should be no criterion; all political prisoners should be released. But the fact is that not all political prisoners were released by the last pardon order

Bозможно, это месседж о том, что 52-х отпустили, остальных будем отпускать поэтапно. Или вполне возможно, что здесь другая логика. Нам очень трудно понять это, поскольку подход неопределенный. К примеру, осужденный на 17 лет помилованию подлежит, а политзаключенный, которому осталось всего 2 месяца до свободы, помилован не был. B списке не было Сеймура Хази, Асифа Юсифли. Так что прогнозировать, кто подлежит помилованию сложно. Я надеюсь, что это связано с таким подходом - кого можно освободить помилованием, сделаем это, в отношении остальных применим иные правовые механизмы. B ближайшие 1-2 месяца мы убедимся в наличие или отсутствии такого подхода. Отсутствие такого подхода понять будет сложно. С другой стороны, было бы нелогичным остановить процесс освобождения, завершив его освобождением этими 52-мя. Нормальная логика подсказывает, что процесс должен быть продолжен. Другие политзаключенные тоже должны быть освобождены посредством использования иного правового механизма. И таковые имеются. Будь то амнистия или в судебном порядке.

Perhaps this is the message that the 52's were released, the rest will be released in stages; or it is quite possible that there is another logic. It is very difficult for us to understand this, because the approach is uncertain. For example, a prisoner sentenced to 17 years is subject to pardon, but a political prisoner, who has only 2 months left to freedom, was not pardoned. The list did not include Seymour Hazy, Asif Yusifli. So it is difficult to predict who is to be pardoned. I hope that this is connected with such an approach - who can be cleared by pardon, we will do it, other legal mechanisms apply for the rest. In the next 1-2 months, we will verify the presence or absence of such an approach. The absence of such an approach will be difficult to understand. On the other hand, it would be illogical to stop the process of liberation, completing it with the release of the 52. Normal logic dictates that the process should continue. Other political prisoners should also be released through the use of a different legal mechanism. And there are any. Whether it is amnesty or in court.

- There is an opinion that the places of the released political prisoners will be taken by others. For example, 52 people are released. The number of those arrested on the Ganja events is almost 50 people, their trial will begin soon. What do you think? Do the authorities want to get rid of the problem of political prisoners?

- I also think so, in view of previous experience, that instead of the released political prisoners will come others. There is such a negative assumption about political prisoners, in which case the problem may remain in a vicious circle. Over the years this is exactly happened. Although it may happen that no one will be arrested anymore, but on the contrary, the process of release of those previously arrested will be continued. We monitor these processes, and in parallel we continue the campaign # hamısınıazadet. After the holidays, this campaign will be updated and activated, the second stage will be started. As for the Ganja events, the cases of the majority of those arrested in these events are under monitoring, since in some cases the court will begin, and in others, the court has already been completed. There are quite a few people deprived of their liberty for long periods. If the Ganja events had occurred a few months ago, or at least these days, and so many people had been arrested, then, of course, these would have been contradictory events. And if we take into account that this has happened before, there are many uncertainties there. Just because of this uncertainty, the lack of information that these people came under monitoring, are included in the category of political prisoners who have been monitored. This process must be monitored. If it is clarified that these persons are political prisoners, in this case, of course, their number increases. It will not give Azerbaijan as a state, and to the authority governing this state any dividends neither inside the country, nor beyond it. The opposite will only be to the detriment.

- Some people believe that these measures are being taken in connection with the agreement with the EU. That is, the measures are imitations. Is it really so?

- The conclusion of an agreement with the EU may be one of the reasons. Just because this issue on the agenda, the problem of political prisoners can be fully resolved. I do not think that imitation can be easily implemented. That is, before the conclusion of an agreement, it will be possible to implement some kind of imitation. However, after the conclusion of an agreement, a return to the previous situation will be impossible, since there is such a thing as a political agreement. It is unlikely that the European Union will put pressure on Azerbaijan to the extent that the Council of Europe does in the context of the European Court of Justice. However, if we take into account that there are big interests connected with politics, this is a very difficult question. To conclude an agreement with the EU, and then, having received dividends, to demonstrate that everything done is an imitation - the question is rather complicated. I believe that all this is not so simple. Here is the question of political agreement, political position. Twenty-eight EU member states have given this structure a mandate to conduct negotiations. These countries have their own interests and demands. Of course, among them there is the issue of human rights, we know that for sure. I think that the Azerbaijani authorities are aware of this. If tomorrow a different position will be demonstrated to human rights, and specifically to the issue of political prisoners, then these same countries can respond not with words, but with action. In particular, if one considers that with almost 10 of these 28 countries, Azerbaijan has signed bilateral agreements on strategic partnership. The authorities of Azerbaijan have repeatedly talked about this with pride and presented the local community as a success. So the chances of imitation are not so high.

-What measures are necessary to solve the problem of political prisoners? Does government really look interested in solving this problem?

-Perhaps, at first glance, it looks like a big, complex problem. However, in fact, it is very easy to solve the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. For this, it is only necessary to demonstrate political will. The first step is the release of all political prisoners, just like it was done on the same day for 52 people. In a very short time, all others can be released. For this, the authorities have all the legal and political mechanisms. It would be good if at least disciplinary measures were taken against investigators, prosecutors, judges who participated in the decision-making on political prisoners. That is, it can become a message that there will no longer be political prisoners or political persecution in Azerbaijan. This automatically leads us to the second direction, which means that the authorities should make serious recommendations that there will no longer be a policy of political persecution in Azerbaijan. One of the forms may be in the same disciplinary format. In fact, it was already announced that the second form could be serious reforms in the judicial legal system, which are necessary. These reforms should be carried out, ranging from the investigation to the independence of judges. For many years" human rights activists have called for this. The political will must be demonstrated that there will be no more political persecution in Azerbaijan. If all these measures are taken, then we can talk about a complete solution of the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. In the meantime, if we take into account the last order of pardon, it is clear that there is a definite desire to solve this problem. In any case, this is a positive assumption, which may or may not be realized. We want this, and call on the authorities to implement and unequivocally address the issue of political prisoners. Even if at least one political prisoner remains under arrest, this will again become a problem, both within the country and for international organizations. The only way out is a complete solution to the problem.

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