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Azerbaijan: the President calls for open and frank dialogue and increased co-operation

Following her official visit to Azerbaijan, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Ms Liliane Maury Pasquier, called for open and frank dialogue and increased co-operation between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan. “Over the two working days of my visit, I had the opportunity to discuss a whole series of issues openly and frankly, particularly the situation of civil society and means of facilitating the work of NGOs and strengthening dialogue between NGOs and the authorities, the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court), independence of justice and facilitating access to the justice system, the integrity and ethics of members of parliament, the accession of Azerbaijan to the Istanbul Convention and the establishment of a new joint procedure of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly to respond to serious violations by member states of the Council of Europe Statute and the European Convention on Human Rights. I appreciated the openness to dialogue of the authorities, at the highest level, even on difficult and sensitive issues”, said the President.

With regard to the implementation of the judgments of the Court, the President encouraged increased co-operation with the Council of Europe, which could provide the necessary expertise to identify appropriate solutions. “During meetings, my discussion partners clearly stated that when Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights became an integral part of the country’s constitutional system and hence that the Court’s judgments had to be implemented – I welcome this approach, which all Council of Europe member states should abide by”, said Ms Maury Pasquier.

“My discussion with civil society representatives was particularly rewarding. I had the honour and privilege of talking with women and men who are fully committed to defending principles and values which are also those of the Council of Europe. Be it in promoting the fundamental freedoms of expression and association and freedom to demonstrate, in engaging in activities linked to the fight against human trafficking or to promoting democratic elections or legal aid for the victims of human rights violations or in campaigning for gender equality, their activities make a huge contribution to the country’s democratic development. I would call for thought to be given to setting up mechanisms for ongoing dialogue between the authorities and civil society so that the whole range of views in society can be expressed freely. More flexible legislation and administrative regulations governing the activity of civil society would contribute greatly to this process. There is also a need to improve the situation of lawyers, who are clearly lacking in numbers; improved access to justice would also facilitate the work of human rights defenders and enhance respect for the rule of law in the interest of all individuals and all economic players. I have heard that new reforms in the justice sector have been launched and call for increased co-operation in this respect with the Council of Europe, which could help to survey existing good practices in our 47 member states to provide the necessary expertise”, stressed the President.

During her visit, the President took part in a conference dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe organised jointly by the French University in Azerbaijan, the French Chairmanship of the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe Office in Baku. “The conference provided an opportunity to reaffirm the Council of Europe’s key political goal, which is to preserve peace and build a closer union between the peoples of Europe, and to call on the member states to show political commitment to promoting the values which the Council of Europe champions. This is all the more important today in view of the fact that we need to give fresh impetus to the European project which all of us endorse”, said the President.

During her visit, Liliane Maury Pasquier met the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the Milli Mejlis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, members of the Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs and the Disciplinary Committee, as well as members of the Azerbaijan delegation to PACE.