PACE debates: are there political prisoners in Azerbaijan?
“Now I understand why in Azerbaijan there are political prisoners. You are intolerant of criticism,” said PACE rapporteur Torhildur Sunna Evarsdottir, when the Azerbaijani delegation accused her of bias.
The debate about whether there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan flared up at a PACE meeting where a resolution on the “Report on communications in connection with political prisoners in Azerbaijan” and recommendations to it were adopted.
A “systemic problem” that needs to be solved once and for all
The resolution says that the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan is of a “systemic nature”, PACE recommendations are ignored, and individuals continue to go to jail for political reasons.
PACE appealed to the Azerbaijani authorities to review the case of the journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, leaders of the Muslim Unity movement Taleh Bagirzade and Abbas Huseynov and some others, and release all those imprisoned for political reasons.
And in general, PACE wants the Azerbaijani authorities to “solve the problem of political prisoners once and for all.”
According to the lists of Azerbaijani human rights activists, the number of political prisoners in the country at the moment is between 120 to 136 people.
The resolution was adopted on the basis of a report by Torhildur Sunna, and most PACE deputies supported it, criticized the Azerbaijani authorities and the situation in Azerbaijan, reports Turan.
In particular, French parliamentarian Bernard Fournier recalled that Azerbaijan does not comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and human rights activists and activists are sometimes imprisoned for their activities.
At the same time, Fournier noted that the judicial system in Azerbaijan is being reformed (at least, relevant decrees have been issued), but called these measures insufficient.
A “tough legacy” hampering the building democracy
However members of the Azerbaijani delegation strongly disagreed with the report, who say the political prisoners mentioned in the document are people convicted of criminal offenses.
Azerbaijani MPs also complained about how difficult it is to build democracy, having the “hard legacy” of the Soviet past. And the head of the Azerbaijani delegation, Samed Seyidov, said that Torhildur Sunna is biased.
“The statement that there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan is a heavy accusation, and we will never admit to it,” Seyidov said.
The Azerbaijani delegation was supported by some deputies from Russia, Turkey and other countries.
But in the end, the resolution was adopted by a majority vote – 82 against 28.