Center for National and International Studies



“The process of gradually isolating Azerbaijan from the civilized world is going on, which can have serious consequences for both its security and development…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

The trial of Afieddin Mammadov, an activist and the chairman of the Confederation of Workers’ Table Trade Unions, who has been in prison for over four months, has commenced. Mammadov stated that he was not permitted to wear a suit jacket during the court appearance, with Penitentiary Service employees claiming that the judge did not allow it. Mammadov‘s case is being heard at the Baku Serious Crimes Court, where he faces charges under articles 126.2.4 of the Criminal Code (intentionally causing grievous bodily harm with the intention of hooliganism) and 221.3 (hooliganism using an object as a weapon). During the preparatory session on January 23, Mammadov denied the charges, emphasizing that he was arrested due to his public activities. Mammadov voiced his objection to the exclusion of journalists and other spectators from the court proceedings. Following his protest, media and public representatives were permitted to enter the courtroom. The lawyer Zibeyda Sadighova objected to handcuffing her client’s hands from behind, stating that such behavior was unacceptable. The lawyer also sought Mammadov‘s release to house arrest, arguing that the reasons previously cited for denying this during the investigation no longer applied. Despite completing the investigation, the court declined the request, citing concerns about hindering the legal process. Another motion to allow journalists to film in court was also rejected, while the issues of handcuffing and attire remained unresolved.

It has been reported that the ceiling of the teacher’s room in Full Secondary School No. 2 in Jahri settlement, Babek district, collapsed, causing a severe head injury to the history teacher. The school, where the ceiling collapsed, was inaugurated in 2016, with President Ilham Aliyev participating in its opening ceremony.

Azerbaijan’s deteriorating relationship with the Council of Europe

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joseph Borrell expressed his concerns about President Ilham Aliyev’s territorial claims to Armenia. On January 22, during a press conference on the outcomes of the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, Borrell stated, “President Aliyev‘s recent territorial claims are very concerning, and any violation of Armenia’s territorial integrity would be unacceptable and will have severe consequences for our relations with Azerbaijan.” The diplomat also mentioned that EU countries expressed solidarity with the French Embassy representatives who were declared “persona non-grata” by Azerbaijan. In response, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs deemed Joseph Borrell’s statements groundless and rejected them.

PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) expelled the delegation of Azerbaijan from the Assembly. On January 24, during the PACE plenary session, a resolution was passed calling for the non-acceptance of the credentials of the Azerbaijani delegation on substantive grounds. The resolution highlighted Azerbaijan’s failure to fulfill crucial obligations to the Council of Europe, despite its more than 20-year membership and numerous previously adopted resolutions. During the discussions, PACE members addressed concerns about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, citing recent politically motivated arrests, persecution, constraints on media freedom, including the detention of journalists from “AbzasMedia,” and widespread instances of torture and ill-treatment. The resolution received 76 votes in favor, 10 against, and 4 abstentions.

The decision made by PACE and the recent deterioration in relations between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan has garnered widespread reactions from various political circles. Altay Goyushov, the director of the Baku Research Institute, commented on the decision of PACE, saying that the Aliyev regime has been actively undermining the reputation of the Council of Europe for decades. Goyushov: In fact, PACE has never been the right place for Aliyev’s delegation. Because the Council of Europe stands for democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, values that the Aliyev government has never prioritized. These are essential for the people of Azerbaijan, not the Aliyev government. The true beneficiary in this situation is the Council of Europe itself. Since the beginning, Aliyev‘s government has consistently attempted to tarnish its reputation with bribes, caviar, lies, and deception. Decisions like these should have been taken much earlier.”

Chairperson of the Musavat Party Arif Hajili stated that Azerbaijani government has been gradually distancing itself from the civilized world. Hajili: The problem is not only related to relations with PACE. In fact, the process of gradually isolating Azerbaijan from the civilized world is going on, which can have serious consequences for both our security and development. It is wrong to organize propaganda campaigns against the West on Azerbaijani television and other platforms. To avert this process, immediate and fundamental changes should be implemented in the country’s internal and foreign policy.”

Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Ali Karimli shared similar opinion warning that the long term consequences of the current tensions with the CoE will have grave consequences for the Azernaijani society. Karimli: As the tension between us and Europe grows, our dependence on Russia and Iran will increase. If the anti-European policy continues, our country will become a complete satellite of Russia. As long as Ilham Aliyev continues his anti-European policy, the country will find itself in international isolation. Together with Belarus and North Korea, we will have to unite closely around Russia. Anti-European politics will hit our already struggling economy hard. Azerbaijan’s opportunities to obtain financial aid, investment, credit, and technology will be limited. As long as the policy of abandoning Europe and becoming Central Asian continues, the dream of an ordinary Azerbaijani to travel to Europe without a visa will remain a dream, repressions will continue, official arbitrariness, lawlessness and poverty will increase. Our people should be aware: unfortunately, we Azerbaijanis will be the losers of this anti-European policy of the regime. Let’s not forget that we, as a people, have the right to protest against what is happening to us.”

Journalist Parviz Hashimli said that “the recent events in the field of human rights, especially the mass arrests carried out without respecting any legal norms, have seriously damaged our position in the Council of Europe.” Hashimli also added that it is necessary to normalize the relations with this organization. “At the present moment, the government of Azerbaijan should make it possible for the Working Group on Human Rights, which was created for the purpose of solving the problem of political prisoners, to start working again. Human rights activists and journalists should be represented in this group. A unified list should be prepared, those sentenced should be pardoned, and those under investigation should be released in accordance with procedural legislation. As long as human rights issues persist in the country, the continued pressures and threats against Azerbaijan may lead to our isolation from Europe. It is not difficult to anticipate the economic consequences this could bring to Azerbaijan, where the majority of foreign trade turnover is linked to Europe.”

Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli argued that if the Azerbaijani government does not take the PACE‘s decision seriously, it will appear as an ally of Russia, potentially leading to sanctions. Gahramanli: If this decision of the PACE is not taken into account by Baku, it will mean that the West will start looking at Azerbaijan as an ally of Russia. This means that sanctions are already on the way. The main reason is that the issue of democracy in Azerbaijan has evolved into a geopolitical concern. In other words, because the Azerbaijani authorities aligned with Russia in their geopolitical choices to uphold their authoritarian regime, the West is now significantly amplifying the concerns about democracy, which it previously handled more leniently. Azerbaijan’s lack of interest in peace talks with Armenia also has a significant impact on this matter. It is no coincidence that this decision of PACE was made on the eve of the sudden presidential election in Azerbaijan. Before that, the fact that the European Parliament forbade its members to observe the presidential elections in Azerbaijan means that the West is purposefully trying to prevent a different assessment of the election results. They know from previous experience that the Azerbaijani authorities will try to do this by bribing individual persons in Europe. However, after these measures, the only final opinion is expected to be announced by the OSCE observation mission. The attitude of the West that we are talking about shows that if Azerbaijan continues its current political course, the OSCE will be in the opinion of the illegitimacy of the results of the presidential election.”

Member of the Real Party Natig Jafarli, on the other hand, shared a different opinion, mostly accusing the CoE of the current situation.  Jafarli: “Biased, illogical, and even unreasonable statements and initiatives of some officials of the Council of Europe and the European Union seriously damage Azerbaijan-Western relations. Such reactions of Western institutions and countries, which provide weapons, money, and political support for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity to Azerbaijan’s restoration of its territorial integrity and sovereignty in accordance with international law, are unacceptable. For several years now, we have been telling Western diplomats, representatives of “think tanks”, and journalists that the West’s absurd and senseless approach to this issue strengthens the anti-Western attitude in the Azerbaijani society, which threatens the strategic position of our country, and weakens the political organizations working for universal values in the country. However, they still do not give up their absurd approach; they do not look at the restoration of our territorial integrity and sovereignty from a legal viewpoint.”

January 26, 2024