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Azerbaijan has a political prisoners 'problem', says PACE, urging review of reported cases and wider reform

“There can no longer be any doubt that Azerbaijan has a problem of political prisoners, and that this problem is due to structural and systemic causes,” PACE has declared, urging the authorities to ensure alleged cases are reviewed by an impartial body, and to undertake “fundamental reforms” to fulfil its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Approving a resolution based on a report by Thorhildur Sunna Aevarsdottir (Iceland, SOC), the Assembly said that – on the basis of factual findings of the European Court of Human Rights – a number of individuals were “political prisoners” according to the Assembly’s definition. The Court also found a “troubling pattern” of politically motivated misuse of the criminal justice system, the parliamentarians pointed out.

The Assembly urged the government to ensure lists of alleged political prisoners were reviewed “by an independent and impartial body”, and to release those found to be political prisoners according to its 2012 definition.

It welcomed the steps taken by the authorities in recent years to reform Azerbaijan’s penitentiary, criminal justice and judicial systems, but said “much more remains to be done”.

It urged “a holistic approach” to reforms, addressing problems in the judiciary, the Prosecutor General’s office, the police and the detention system together, “to ensure the non-repetition of politically motivated arbitrary detention, as required by the European Court of Human Rights”.