A debate on “The functioning of the democratic institutions in Azerbaijan”

24. juuni 2008

The debate on the report on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan presented by Mr Herkel and Mrs Jivkova on behalf of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe, Document 11627. Speach of Mrs Ojuland
http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/Records/2008/E/0806241000E.htm

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THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mrs Ojuland.

      Mrs OJULAND (Estonia). – This year, Azerbaijan is celebrating this year its 90th anniversary. Ninety years ago, Azerbaijan was created as the first democracy in the region and it had a flourishing economy. Today, it is independent again and its economy is doing well. I am glad to note that the revenue that is coming from oil in Azerbaijan is invested in the infrastructure, the social sphere, education and other relevant sectors. Azerbaijan acceded to the Council of Europe in 2001 with a certain amount of credit, like many other countries at that time. Some countries have been faster and some slower in implementing their commitments and obligations and introducing high democratic standards, but we have been quite unfair and we have been treating countries differently in checking how they are honouring their commitments.

We have discussed Azerbaijan’s obligations eight times while there are countries that joined in 1996 that we have discussed only three times, and I am pretty convinced that the situation on human rights, the rule of law, and implementing democratic principles are not that much worse in Azerbaijan. That makes me think that we are introducing double standards in the Council of Europe, and that would be a shame for this Organisation. We must treat all countries equally. This is about the reputation of the Council of Europe.

This report has been written in strong language. I have been a member of the Assembly since 1995, and I have not seen such strong language in that time. It reminds me of the statement by George Orwell that some are equal, but some are more equal than others. I should ask why we are doing this. Why cannot we treat all countries equally?

      Other parts of the report have been criticised by the international working group on the implementation of international human rights standards in Azerbaijan. Many colleagues have seen that statement, which has been written by international experts on human rights, many of whose names are well known to us. I would like to quote what they have written: “Therefore, the conclusion of the resolution on the deterioration of the situation with human rights and the fact that it undermines the efforts of the authorities to be in line with the basic democratic standards, seems to be not enough sustained by the facts and casts a shadow of doubt over the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s constructive co-operation with Azerbaijan, which we so highly value.” They also said: “it should be noted in the context, that the term, ‘political prisoner’, is not legally defined, and is not included in any international legally binding document.” I was in Azerbaijan last week for the celebrations for the 90th anniversary, and I met many representatives of the authorities, including members of parliament, the Foreign Minister, and President Aliyev – our former colleague in the Assembly – and they all confirmed that they want to co-operate. The only thing that they lack is equal treatment.

The text of the report:

http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asplink=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc08/EDOC11627.htm