[:en]The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe today adopted a resolution on the “Report on communications in connection with political prisoners in Azerbaijan” and recommendations in connection with it.
The draft resolution was drawn up based on the report of the speaker on political prisoners in Azerbaijan, the Icelandic deputy Thorhildur Sunna Evarsdottir. During the discussions, most deputies supported the report, reports Turan special correspondent from Strasbourg. In particular, French parliamentarian Bernard Fournier pointed to Azerbaijan’s non-compliance with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is not acceptable. He noted that the activities of human rights defenders, activists sometimes lead to the fact that they end up in prisons.
Fournier praised the decrees of the President of Azerbaijan on reforming the punishment system and the judicial system. However, he considered these measures not sufficient. According to Fournier, the interference of the executive branch in the work of the judicial and legal council is unacceptable, which undermines the independence of judges.
In turn, members of the Azerbaijani delegation strongly disagreed with the provisions of the report. Sahib Gafarova saw in the report the religious radicals convicted of criminal offenses as political prisoners. Other deputies from Azerbaijan, rejecting criticism, pointed to Azerbaijan’s commitment to co-operation with the CE and noted objective difficulties in democratic construction and the “difficult legacy” of the past. The Azerbaijani delegation was supported by a number of deputies from Russia, Turkey and several other countries.
The head of the Azerbaijani delegation, Samed Seyidov, accused the speaker of bias and free interpretation of the ECHR decisions, as well as of “interference” in the upcoming parliamentary elections in February, deliberately calling into question their “democracy”.
“The statement that there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan is a heavy accusation and we will never admit it,” Seyidov said.
Evarsdottir, in turn, responding to the accusations against her, said that compared to December last year, when the issue was discussed in the PACE Committee, he changed his position by 180 degrees.
“Now I understand why there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan. You are intolerant of criticism,” said the speaker.
She believes that the unsolved problem of political prisoners will put at risk the country’s membership in the Council of Europe. “None of us want this. Azerbaijan has its place in the Council of Europe. But this country must respect its obligations,” said Evarsdottir.
None of the three amendments proposed by the Azerbaijani delegation was adopted.
The resolution was adopted by a majority of 82 votes, with 28 against. Approximately, with this ratio Recommendations were adopted.
The resolution expresses serious concern about the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, which is of a “systemic nature.”
Even when Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe in 2001, PACE called on Baku to “release or review the cases of political prisoners”. However, this problem remains, despite several PACE resolutions on this issue.
In recent years, the European Court of Human Rights has issued a large number of decisions, finding a violation of the European Convention due to arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians, civil society activists, human rights activists and journalists.
The draft resolution states that 85 people were included in the report of the previous PACE rapporteur, Christoph Strasser. At least nine of these people won their cases in court, and four more remain pending before the ECHR.
“In any case, there is no doubt that the phenomenon of political prisoners in Azerbaijan is real,” the document says.
At the same time, the resolution called trustworthy lists of political prisoners submitted by the “Working Group on the Compilation of a Single List of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan” and the “Union for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan.”
The document specifically refers to the cases of the journalist Afgan Mukhtarly, leaders of the Muslim Unity Movement Taleh Bagirzade and Abbas Huseynov, persons involved in the Cases of Said Dadashbeyli and others.
The resolution also gives place to the Ganja events of 2018. “Many of those with whom I met in Azerbaijan, including diplomats, have expressed serious concern about this,” the words of the speaker are quoted in the document.
She recalls that a few days after the photo of the assassin attacking the head of Ganja with traces of torture was distributed, a demonstration took place in Ganja, during which two police officers were killed.
In this case, 77 people were arrested. “Some of them say that they did not even participate in the demonstration. Authorities claimed that they were all violent Islamic extremists. The detainees gave detailed descriptions about tortures in custody. They were denied access to lawyers or the opportunity to contact their family.
The lawsuits took place in Baku, and not in Ganja, and many journalists did not get access to the processes. There were serious problems with the veracity of the charges, which the court could not properly examine.
“The fact that the detainees were arrested in a demonstration against the government, and the authorities’ statements that they are religious extremists, as well as serious procedural flaws, suggest that most of those arrested, or maybe all of them, are political prisoners,” notes presenter.
The Assembly calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to review the affairs of those whose names are listed on civil society lists and release all those imprisoned for political reasons.
The resolution proposes, “To solve the problem of political prisoners once and for all,” the document says. According to the lists of local human rights defenders, the number of political prisoners is from 120 to 136.