BAKU: CoE Official, Azeri Opp. MPs discuss human rights, Karabakh

European official, Azeri opposition MPs discuss human rights, Karabakh

Turan news agency
7 Apr 04


The implementation of Azerbaijan’s commitments to the Council of
Europe and problems of democracy were discussed at a meeting between
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer and opposition
MPs at parliament, namely Ali Karimli [head of the reformist wing of
the People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party], Mais Safarli [head of the
Compatriot Party] and Qudrat Hasanquliyev [head of the United
Azerbaijan People’s Front Party].

Karimli drew Schwimmer’s attention to the problem of political
prisoners which has not yet been resolved although Azerbaijan has been
a Council of Europe member country over the past three years. Karimli
said, in particular, that his aide Ramiz Tagiyev has been held in
custody over the past 10 months and has not yet had his trial. The
seven opposition leaders arrested in connection of the 2003 October
events [post-election riots in Baku] have been held in custody over
the past five months. “The world public must keep these issues under
control as there are no independent courts in Azerbaijan and the
authorities can make short the work of anyone,” Karimli said.

Elections in Azerbaijan are not democratic and the Council of Europe
should appoint a special rapporteur for progress to be achieved in the
sphere. In addition, there are serious violations of freedom of speech
and press, many media outlets have been closed down and the bank
accounts of two of the remaining three have been arrested. The
authorities have established complete control over all television
channels and the law on public TV does not give guarantees that an
independent TV channel will appear in Azerbaijan, Karimli said.

He said the authorities are violating the right to freedom of
assembly. In the last six months the authorities had not permitted any
rallies or pickets.

Walter Schwimmer said in reply that in the past three years the
Council of Europe had been keeping the issue of political prisoners in
the centre of its attention and that it would monitor the situation
until the last prisoner was set free.

As for the problem of democratic elections, he pointed to the need of
following the recommendations of the Venice Commission. He called on
the Azerbaijani authorities to endorse the European standards of local
government and to reform the system of courts and advocacy. Freedom of
assembly should also be ensured, Schwimmer said.

Talking about the Karabakh problem which was raised by the MPs, he
said that the sides pledged to resolve the problem peacefully. “The
problem should be resolved through dialogue,” he said. At the initial
stage attempts should be made to build confidence and the solution to
the problem should be sought in line with European constitutions and
experience, he said.

Azadliq’s correspondent accredited at parliament was not allowed to
attend the meeting.