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Council of Europe fails to adopt resolution on Azeri political prisoners

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 24 January 2013 - ARTICLE 19 is disappointed with the outcome of today's vote by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Whilst ARTICLE 19 welcomes the adoption of the resolution on monitoring Azerbaijan's obligations, it is extremely disappointing that a second resolution on political prisoners in Azerbaijan was rejected.

“PACE has failed to show that it will address member states who fail to do what they have promised. The Council of Europe is the bedrock for human rights standards in the region. By allowing member states to get away with blatant violations, and accepting their refusal to cooperate with the mechanisms that have been put in place to safeguard these standards, it loses both respect and influence," stated Agnès Callamard.

“The decision by PACE to reject the resolution on political prisoners is a severe blow for human rights in Azerbaijan, and particularly for those who remain imprisoned on politically motivated charges in the country,” she added.

After his appointment in 2009, Christoph Strässer, the Rapporteur on Political Prisoners, was continuously denied a visa by the Azerbaijani government for three years. This prevented him from entering the country to carry out the necessary research to effectively carry out his mandate. This refusal by the Azerbaijani authorities to cooperate effectively has seriously undermined the work of the Rapporteur and the credibility of the Assembly as a monitoring body.

As part of an NGO delegation ARTICLE 19 attended the debate at PACE, together with other international and local Azerbaijani organisations, including the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), the Human Rights Club (HRC) and Media Rights Institute (MRI).

“It is very regrettable for all those who hope this would be the solution to their political motivated imprisonment in Azerbaijan. This is not just a problem of Azerbaijan, but also other country members in Council of Europe and today's decision could have been a good base for addressing this issue of political prisoners in other countries within Europe,” said Rashid Hajili, Director of MRI.

“The members of PACE that voted against the resolution now have an obligation to ensure the Azerbaijani government eliminates the use of politically motivated imprisonment,” he added.

"We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of today's vote. Through their intensive lobbying efforts, the authorities have been successful in deflecting attention from the true human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Despite this negative outcome, we will remain engaged with the Council of Europe to ensure Azerbaijan is held accountable for its human rights obligations,” said IRFS Chair Emin Huseynov.

"The fact that the political prisoners resolution did not pass today has seriously negative implications for the future of democracy in Azerbaijan and the country's relationship with the CoE," concluded Human Rights Club Chair Rasul Jafarov. "We urge PACE to utilise other relevant mechanisms to monitor and influence the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, particularly the situation of political prisoners," Huseynov added.

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