Azerbaijan threatens to withdraw from the Council of Europe
The adoption of two critical resolutions by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) regarding Azerbaijan has caused an acutely negative reaction among Azerbaijani authorities.
On 11 October, PACE discussed two reports on Azerbaijan: “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan”, and “Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe: what follow–up on respect for human rights? (May-November 2014)”.
The first report expressed concern about the imbalance between the branches of power. It was noted in particular that recent constitutional changes could lead to the executive branch becoming less accountable to the parliament, with the judiciary remaining dependent on the executive branch.
The documents’ authors expressed concern over harassment and regular detentions of NGO leaders, human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, bloggers, and lawyers.
They called on authorities to release the detainees whose detention is ‘reasonably doubtful’. There is also concern over allegations of a restrictive climate for extra-parliamentary opposition activities and restrictions on freedom of assembly.
Samad Seyidov, head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, strongly opposed the draft resolution:
“We are doing everything we can to conduct a dialogue, and here you are stirring up the situation.” According to Seyidov, reforms have been carried out for years in Azerbaijan, yet the report says that “there had been no reforms”.
The Azerbaijani delegation also protested the report on the imprisonment of oppositional politician Ilgar Mammadov alleging that he was arrested for “specific crimes”.
The adoption of these critical resolutions has caused an acutely negative reaction among Azerbaijan’s leadership. The National Adviser to the President of Azerbaijan and Head of Department on Social Political Issues, Ali Hasanov, told Trend:
“Having adopted these documents with a special aim, prepared on the basis of subjective judgements of interested anti-Azerbaijani circles, PACE has once again demonstrated its prejudiced and unfair attitudes towards Azerbaijan.”
Hasanov added that the adoption of ‘prejudiced’ documents, based on subjective judgements, forces Azerbaijan to reconsider relations with the Council of Europe.
The head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, Samad Seyidov, called the adopted resolutions ‘shameful’.
“Today’s PACE discussions have once again shown that different groups, particularly those supported by the Armenian lobby, have tried to seriously criticize Azerbaijan. The artificial escalation of tension, and the inclusion of facts far from the truth, have turned this into a frivolous document. Azerbaijan, as an independent state, cannot work with such a document,” said Seyidov.
The Azerbaijani presidential aide on foreign policy issues and head of the Department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, Novruz Mammadov, also criticized the PACE resolutions:
“Some, sitting in PACE, act almost as members of the inquisition court, with the sole duty of delivering the punishment verdict. Don’t they, in PACE, realize where such a policy is leading Europe to?!
“If PACE believes that its primary mission is to determine the punishment for its partners, while having no obligations of its own, then it begs the question – who needs such an institution and what for?” Mammadov wrote on Twitter.
“We’re asking ourselves a question – what are we doing in the Council of Europe?” the APA quoted Seidov’s words.