STRASBOURG (Panorama.am) — In her opening address at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) autumn session, its president, Anne Brasseur, said the human rights situation in Azerbaijan has deteriorated significantly over the past two years, the period of her presidency.
“The people targeted, the type of charges, the length of the sentences and the blatant irregularities in the conduct of the trials all cast doubt on the authorities’ willingness to respect the fundamental values of the Council of Europe,” Brasseur said, pointing out that last-year’s winner of the Vaclav Havel Prize, Anar Mammadli, is still in detention in Azerbaijan.
The PACE President also said that the recent convictions of the human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus and the journalist Khadija Ismayilova are deeply troubling. “It is high time Azerbaijan changed its attitude to human rights and engaged in a root-and-branch effort to tackle systemic problems in terms of the functioning of the justice system and respect for media freedom and freedom of association and assembly,” she added.
Brasseur stated this is all the more important with Azerbaijan due to hold parliamentary elections in just over one-month’s time. She confirmed the decision of the PACE Bureau to send an election observation delegation to Baku on 1 November 2015. Speaking purely for herself, she nevertheless said that unless the long- and short-term ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) observers were present, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the ad hoc committee to make a thorough and comprehensive assessment as to whether the election was consistent with Council of Europe standards and with Azerbaijan’s commitments to the organization.
Azerbaijan’s Parliamentary elections are scheduled on 1 November 2015. There were recent local reports about the authorities faking a growth of the number of “independent” candidates for the elections. The international agencies reportedly took up rather stern stance regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections. On September 11, 2015, Michael Georg Link, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), announced that, due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities, ODIHR had to cancel its mission to observe the country’s parliamentary elections. Earlier, ODIHR had reported about its intention to send 380 observers to Azerbaijan.