STRASBOURG–Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev found himself in a pickle on Tuesday, when before and after his speech at the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, he was dogged by questions from PACE leadership and delegates about Azerbaijan’s abysmal human rights record and rampant violations of press and speech freedoms in his country.
Aliyev chose his tried and true approach: lashing out at his critics and calling them “liars.”
The day began with Azerbaijanis living in Europe staged a protest at the PACE meeting hall. Having covered their mouths with black tape, the group was protesting Aliyev’s continued insisting that his government was protecting the rights of its citizens; that there were no political prisoners in Azerbaijan; and that there was freedom of speech and expression in his country. “All fundamental freedoms are respected in Azerbaijan,” said the Azerbaijani leader.
Aside from the protesters, Aliyev was confronted by PACE President Anne Brasseur who said that no matter how much a country develops economically, it can never be successful if democratic norms and principles are not respected.
The PACE president stressed that while Azerbaijan was a signatory to some 57 conventions since becoming a member of the Council of Europe, it has failed to implement specific provisions dealing with human rights, guaranteeing freedom of speech, press and assembly.
During the question and answer session following Aliyev’s remarks, PACE deputy from Ireland, Michael McNamara brought up the issue of 39 political prisoners in Azerbaijan and stressed that the recent presidential elections were fraudulent.
An angry Aliyev shot back by asserting that there were no political prisoners in his country.
“If you are making such statements,” Aliyev said, “that’s your biased approach toward our country. You have tried to insult our country on several occasions. Azerbaijan will not fall victim to such provocations.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev exchanged verbal punches with deputies at today’s PACE plenary session in Strasbourg who raised concerns about human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
PACE deputy from the UK, Paul Flynn, was also not spared Aliyev’s wrath. When Flynn questioned the Azerbaijani leader about state attacks against journalists in Azerbaijan, Aliyev angrily retorted: “You are lying.”
Aliyev and Karabakh
A presentation by Aliyev at an international arena would not be complete without a discussion of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Azerbaijani leader’s continued insistence that the current republic of Armenia was actually part of historic Azerbaijan and that Yerevan was granted to the Armenians in the early 20th Century.
He went on to assert that Armenia had not complied with several international agreements–an ironic statement on Aliyev’s part since he was earlier chided by the PACE president for having ignored critical conventions of the Council of Europe, of which, incidentally, Azerbaijan currently holds the chairmanship.
Prior to the beginning of the PACE session, the Azerbaijani delegation aimed to disqualify the Armenain delegation by proposing a resolution, which claimed that Armenians were aggressors in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. That motion was not even brought to the floor for a vote.