Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC) and Cezar Florin Preda (Romania, EPP/CD), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Azerbaijan, made the following statement at the end of their fact-finding visit to the country from 14 to 16 September 2017.
Based on the draft resolution adopted by the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee on 7 September 2017, discussions focused on issues related to the independence of the judiciary, the criminal justice system, conditions of detention, freedom of association and in particular the legislation on NGOs. Talks also covered media freedom and the full implementation of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, including in respect of Ilgar Mammadov, who should be released without any further delay.
“Previously we welcomed the President of the Republic’s Executive Order on improvement of the operation of the prison system and humanisation of criminal policies. It is important that this order is now promptly and fully implemented. We therefore discussed with the authorities the next steps to be taken to ensure its implementation,” the co-rapporteurs said. “We welcome the release of Faig Amirli, which occurred during our visit, and hope that further releases will take place soon, and that no new arrests will take place which would undermine the signal given by this release.”
The co-rapporteurs urged their peers in parliament to amend the legislation on NGOs in order to allow for their functioning and funding in compliance with European standards.
The co-rapporteurs visited the office of the Turan Information Agency and met with Mehman Aliyev, who had been released and placed under house arrest prior to their visit. “We welcome the news that the tax sanctions on the news agency have in the meantime been lifted, and we urge the authorities to lift all charges against Mehman Aliyev and end all restrictive measures against the Turan Information Agency,” they said.
“We would like to thank the Azerbaijani authorities for the frank discussions and the continued dialogue,” the co-rapporteurs said. In Baku, they met with the President of the Republic, the Head of his Administration and the Deputy Minister of Justice. In parliament, meetings were held with the Speaker of Parliament and the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE. Mr Schennach and Mr Preda also met representatives of civil society, journalists, lawyers and families of persons in detention. The co-rapporteurs were able to meet with Aziz Orujov in pre-trial detention, and meetings were held with Fuad Gahramanli in Prison 10 and Mehman Huseynov in Prison 14. They also went to Gobustan prison.
A debate on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan” will be held in Strasbourg on Wednesday 11 October 2017, during the PACE plenary session, on the basis of the report adopted on 7 September by the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee.