Center for National and International Studies
“The election of a fake MP from a strict authoritarian regime like Azerbaijan to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the position responsible for human rights is not only a spitting on human rights and democracy but also an indication of how weak the West has become in the current geopolitical war…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
The US State Department has released its annual reports on Human rights practices. According to the report, in Azerbaijan, the state of human rights and liberties worsened, and the government imposed further restrictions on journalists with new media law. “During the year, there were incidents of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan which resulted in casualties and detentions. There were reports that Azerbaijani forces engaged in unlawful killings and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of Armenian forces in September. Complaints submitted by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the European Court of Human Rights accusing each other of committing atrocities during the fighting in 2020 and 2016 awaited the court’s ruling.” Reports states that “other significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by members of the security forces; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country; pervasive problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and the media, including violence against journalists, enforcement of criminal defamation laws to limit expression, and harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges; serious restrictions on internet freedom, including blocking of websites; a de facto ban on the rights of peaceful assembly and substantial interference with freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; lack of accountability for gender-based violence; crimes involving violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.” Moreover, it is noted that the Azerbaijani government did not prosecute or punish the majority of officials who were reported to have committed human rights abuses and acts of corruption. The facts of torture faced by political emigrants who were arrested in Azerbaijan after being deported from Germany and Rashad Ramazanov, who was arrested after returning from Georgia, were mentioned too. The brutalities faced by Tofig Yagublu, members of the Muslim Union Movement, and activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev are listed as well.
The report also touched upon the controversial law on Political Parties, noting that political parties are often unable to register officially. For instance, the Democratic and Welfare Party reported the Ministry of Justice had not registered it as a party despite the fact that it had met legal requirements. Since October 2021, the party’s application documents have been rejected four separate times on different grounds. The report also criticized the adoption of this law by the Milli Majlis without consultation with international experts such as the OSCE/ODIHR or the Venice Commission.
Commenting on the report, the chairperson of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Ali Karimli said that the West has no intention of turning a blind eye to the repressive, anti-human, violent regime in Azerbaijan for the sake of oil, gas, and geopolitical interests. Karimli also added that the Azerbaijani people should draw conclusions from what happened and join the peaceful struggle to stop the violence by the regime. Moreover, Karimli urged the authorities to immediately release Alizamin Salayev, who has been on hunger strike in protest against his illegal arrest. Karimli’s Facebook post: “Unfortunately, we can lose Alizamin Salayev anytime. Alizamin, who has serious heart disease, is continuing his hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment. You know that a few days ago, I also asked Alizamin Bey to stop his strike. Unfortunately, Alizamin insists on continuing the hunger strike. I am very worried about his life. Although Alizamin is a strong-willed person, he has a serious heart disease, and the brutal regime deprived Alizamin Bey of even the minimum medical care. Ilham Aliyev is personally responsible for his life. Don’t be a murderer! Do not destroy Alizamin Bey, who has not committed any crime. The people will not forgive you for this.”
Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces Jamil Hasanli said that the cases of human rights violations are only a small percentage of the real picture. Hasanli: “I can say with certainty that the terrible picture reflected in the report is not all that Ilham Aliyev has committed against his people. Because the free press is blocked and the independent media is stifled, the people are not aware of the report of the State Department, and the document is not translated and delivered to the people who are the target of this regime. That’s why we decided to translate some parts of the report and share it with the readers. The Aliyev regime’s oppression of its own people is implemented in the torture laboratories created in the country. Everyone in the country knows this. The State Department’s report only mentions acts of torture that occurred in 2022. The illegal arrests and cases of violations since the start of this year are not mentioned.”
Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli said that what is listed in the US State Department’s report on Azerbaijan shows a terrible picture. “This is the reality of Azerbaijan seen from the outside. A criminal, violent, corrupt regime that knows no legal limits, disregards the law, and is hostile to democratic freedoms. First of all, the Azerbaijani authorities should be worried about this picture. Instead of taking into account the criticisms from abroad, the government presents itself as a party that does not compromise, is not ready for understanding, and ignores democratic calls. History shows that when external conditions force change, the consequences are more severe and tragic. However, if the government itself wants to build a bridge to the future with preventive reform steps before the moment of compulsion arrives, this keeps the possibility of a safer transition for everyone. Unfortunately, it seems that the Azerbaijani authorities do not understand the calls from the society, the EU, and the United States.”
Governance and Corruption
120 world leaders were invited to attend Biden’s second Summit for Democracy. The invitation was extended to eight more countries that did not attend last year’s summit. However, like last year, Azerbaijan was not invited to this year’s summit. “The president will look to make the case that the events of the last year have put into stark relief that democratic government grounded in the rule of law and the will of the governed remains — despite its frequent messiness — the best system to promote prosperity and peace” according to White House officials.
Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a global initiative of the United Nations, shared its annual World Happiness Report. According to the report, Finland has been ranked the happiest country in the world six times in a row among more than 150 countries. Finland was followed by Denmark, Iceland, Israel, and the Netherlands, and in the top-10 rankings, Israel jumped 5 places, while Switzerland fell 4 places. According to this ranking, Azerbaijan ranks 88th. To determine the level of happiness, the authors of the report use criteria such as access to health care, people’s financial security, civil liberties and rights, average life expectancy, education, and GDP per capita. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the World Happiness Report since the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281, proclaiming 20 March to be observed annually as the International Day of Happiness.
Member of the Azerbaijani Parliament Milli Majlis Kamal Jafarov tweeted that he was elected as the new Chairman of the Sub Committee on Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). However, the MP’s new role as a chairperson was criticized as Azerbaijan is among the countries with one of the worst human rights records. Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that considering that only a few days ago European Parliament issued a report on the gross violation of Human Rights in Azerbaijan, PACE’s decision is not acceptable. “The MP of the country, where human rights are grossly violated at every step, where torture is rampant, where all rights, from movement to the right to free assembly, are thrown at the feet of one family, has been elected as the chairman of the PACE Human Rights Committee. A few days ago, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the gross violation of human rights in Azerbaijan. A day ago, the US State Department issued a report on the unbearable situation of human rights in Azerbaijan. A fake deputy of a country where touchers worse than medieval tortures are practiced should not be represented in the Council of Europe, let alone the chairman of the committee. The EU is run by politicians who exchange European principles for half a kilo of caviar.”
Director of the Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov also criticized the new appointment. “The election of a fake MP from a strict authoritarianism like Azerbaijan to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the position responsible for human rights is not only spitting by this caviar-eating institution on human rights and democracy but also an indication of how weak the West has become in the current geopolitical war. They are so weak, they are so desperate that they don’t even hesitate to spit on the values they represent in front of everyone in a demonstrative manner.”
March 24, 2023