The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting in plenary session in Strasbourg, remains concerned about the human rights situation and the functioning of justice in Azerbaijan and regrets that the 2014 Azerbaijani Chairmanship coincided with an “unprecedented crackdown on human rights”.
In a resolution adopted on the basis of a report by Alain Destexhe (Belgium, ALDE), PACE expresses particular concern about “the reported prosecution and detention of leaders of NGOs, human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and bloggers”, despite the fact that some of them were released in 2016.
The Assembly also notes with concern reports linking the Azerbaijani government to a large-scale money laundering scheme occurring in the years 2012 to 2014 used inter alia to influence the work of members of the Assembly regarding the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. It urges the authorities to start an independent and impartial inquiry into these allegations without delay.
Parliamentarians are also worried at cases of “torture and inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest, in police custody and in prisons, and the lack of effective investigations, violations of the right to a fair trial and violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly”. At the same time, they welcomed the Presidential Executive Order on improving the functioning of the prison system and the humanisation of criminal policies.
Despite the reforms of the judicial system embarked upon by the Azerbaijani authorities, the Assembly is concerned about allegations of a systematic lack of independence of the judiciary vis-à-vis the executive, the arbitrary application of criminal law and the excessive use of pre-trial detention by judges. It also notes that little progress has been made regarding the execution of the judgments of the ECHR – more than 120 judgments have not yet been fully executed – and urges the authorities to execute the Ilgar Mammadov judgment and ensure his immediate release.
The adopted resolution calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to “begin real and meaningful reforms” to establish a judicial system which complies with the standards of the Council of Europe and to remove the obstacles to the work of journalists and human rights defenders.