Azerbaijan has not fulfilled a number of GRECO recommendations on corruption prevention
The Group of States against Corruption – GRECO – has published the results of the fourth assessment round on the prevention of corruption in the activities of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors in Azerbaijan.
Additions to the second compliance report on Azerbaijan were adopted at the 86th plenary meeting of GRECO in October 2020.
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The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) is an international organization created by the Council of Europe in 1999.
The main goal of the organization is to help the participating countries in the fight against corruption. GRECO establishes anti-corruption standards (requirements) for the activities of the state and monitors the compliance of practice with these standards. The group helps to identify shortcomings in national anti-corruption policies and proposes the necessary legislative, institutional or operational measures.
The group consists of 50 states. Membership in GRECO is not limited to Europe, but currently the only non-European country in the group is the United States.
For the GRECO report on Azerbaijan, Jouko Huhtamaki from Finland and Pelagia Mahauri from Georgia were appointed as country rapporteurs.
In the assessment report, the group proposed 21 recommendations to Azerbaijan and, according to the document, only 14 of them were fulfilled satisfactorily, four recommendations were partially implemented, and three were not implemented at all.
One MP case and corruption in parliament
In response to recommendations to prevent corruption in the Azerbaijani parliament, the country’s government told GRECO that the Milli Mejlis was dissolved in December 2019, early parliamentary elections were held in February 2020, and this “prevented the implementation of some recommendations.”
One of the recommendations of GRECO was to ensure effective control over the additional activities of the deputies. As a response to this recommendation, the Azerbaijani government refers to the deprivation of parliamentary powers of one of the deputies engaged in entrepreneurial activity.
The government, in its response to GRECO, indicates that the deputy appeared as a defendant before the court in a claim for non-repayment of the debt. It is noted that an official check in connection with this issue was carried out by the disciplinary commission of the parliament. “According to the official bodies, following the results of the official inspection, the disciplinary commission of the parliament appealed to the Central Election Commission with a request to deprive the deputy of his mandate. After that, the prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case against this already former member of parliament, ”the report says.
But GRECO claims that, according to publications in the Azerbaijani media, the deprivation of the deputy of his mandate was carried out on the basis of his personal appeal. In other words, he himself renounced the mandate.
“In any case, one cannot be sure that the recommendation has been implemented in just one particular case,” says a document published by the anti-corruption group.
In addition, GRECO notes the lack of progress in the implementation of the recommendation on determining the form of the declaration of income of the deputies.
Role of the Judicial-Legal Council in the appointment of judges in Azerbaijan
Another GRECO recommendation to the Azerbaijani government consisted of an open indication in the mandate of the Judicial-Legal Council to protect the independence of the judiciary and to strengthen it.
The organization recommended strengthening the role of the Judicial and Legal Council (JCB) within the judiciary, the election of at least half of the JJC composition from judges elected directly or appointed by their colleagues, and the election of the JJC chairman from among the members-judges.
As noted in the report, GRECO welcomed the news of the extension of the PCA’s term of office in order to protect the independence of the courts, but regrets the lack of progress in implementing the other listed recommendations.
In addition, GRECO recommended strengthening the role of the PCA in the appointment of judges of all categories and presidents of courts. The organization regretted the lack of progress in ensuring the participation of the Judicial and Legal Council in the appointment of judges of all categories.
Also, the government of Azerbaijan was recommended by GRECO to approve the form of the declaration of income for judges. The Organization recalls that this recommendation has also not been implemented and there has been no progress on this issue.
Problems of vacancies and financial reporting in the prosecutor’s office
GRECO made several recommendations in the field of preventing corruption cases in the prosecution service.
The recommendation to amend the law “On the Prosecutor’s Office” in order to prevent pressure and interference in the activities of the prosecutor’s office during investigations was partially implemented.
Another recommendation was the public announcement of vacancies in the prosecution authorities and the compliance of appointments to these positions with the criteria of clarity, objectivity and transparency. This recommendation has also been partially implemented. Thus, the rule of open announcement of vacancies to the public does not apply to leadership positions.
The recommendation on defining the declaration of assets of prosecutors as a priority issue has not been implemented. The report notes that there has been no progress in the implementation of this recommendation.
GRECO stated that it summarizes the evaluation procedure of the fourth round for Azerbaijan and calls on the government of the country to inform about any progress in the future on the implementation of the recommendations.