BAKU: Azeri Official Rejects US Criticism Of Rights Situation

AZERI OFFICIAL REJECTS US CRITICISM OF RIGHTS SITUATION

ANS TV, Baku
7 Mar 07

[Presenter] The US Department of State has published its regular report
on human rights in world countries. The report says that the situation
in Azerbaijan in this field is not quite encouraging. The Baku
government does not agree with the criticism of the report. Government
officials doubt the impartiality of the report.

Despite all this, the position of the State Department on Azerbaijan’s
territorial integrity is more straightforward than ever. For instance,
the report mentions the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories
three times. The US report on Armenia also mentions this fact. Here
is Azada Balayeva on the department’s report regarding Azerbaijan.

[Correspondent] Following the recent report of ombudsman Elmira
Suleymanova on the human rights situation in the country delivered to
MPs, there was an impression that the situation was not that bad. But
the US State Department report does not give us grounds to think so.

[Passage omitted: correspondent quotes from the report]

Azerbaijani rights activists and representatives of NGOs are divided
on the report.

[Rights activist Sahib Mammadov, captioned] I believe that the part of
the report on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is impartial,
and this is undeniable. But at the same time, it also speaks about
the unbearable situation in prisons. I think that very serious and
positive reforms are under way in the penitentiary system and while
there are serious problems, there are positive changes both in the
conditions inmates are held in and in the treatment by the wardens.

[Azay Quliyev, president of the National NGO Forum, captioned] Reports
like this should have diverse sources. Prepared reports come from
one source only which has a known attitude and is known for special
political activity. It is natural that it looks at the situation
from only one angle. For instance, this report says that people are
persecuted for their political beliefs in Azerbaijan. But I believe
that this has been significantly exaggerated. I think that today
in Azerbaijan no-one is persecuted for their political affiliation
or beliefs.

[Correspondent] The head of the public and political department at
the presidential administration, Ali Hasanov, does not agree with
the criticism in the report either. The official has said that the
majority of the issues mentioned in the report are problems of the
past which have already been resolved.

Hasanov believes that the report is biased concerning some issues,
for instance, regarding freedom of speech. The official said that the
situation in this field in Azerbaijan is not as bad as described in
the report. Journalists in the country are neither pressurized nor
persecuted. On the contrary, freedom of speech has been developing
in Azerbaijan, and journalists are working freely.

Ali Hasanov does not agree with the assertion that the opposition’s
right to freedom of assembly is violated. He said that there are no
restrictions on rallies staged by any organization in line with law.

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