STRASBOURG–The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on Tuesday that condemned the democratic processes of Azerbaijan, based on a report by co-rapporteurs Pedro Agramunt (Spain) and Tadeusz Iwinski (Poland) titled, “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.”
The resolution condemns what it called “the crackdown on human rights in Azerbaijan” and called for an end to the “systemic repression” of human rights defenders, the media, and those critical of the government. It also condemned Azerbaijan for using the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as an “alibi” for its ongoing human rights abuses and failing democratic processes.
140 deputies voted in favor of the resolution, 13 voted against, and 8 abstained. During debate proceedings, amendments were introduced to the document’s wording on the Artsakh conflict.
Armenia’s representative to PACE, Arpine Hovhannisyan, stated in a Facebook post that a sentence which read, “The Assembly is fully aware of the occupation by Armenia of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other provinces of Azerbaijan” was changed to: “The Assembly is fully aware of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
“Justice is still breathing,” wrote Hovhannisyan.
In her speech to PACE, Hovhannisyan spoke against the use of such wording, pointing out that neither the OSCE Minsk Group—the mediator of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict—nor the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled in favor of an Azeri refugee, used the words “occupation” or “annexation” when referencing the conflict. Hovhannisyan said that the inclusion of such wording in the resolution distracted from the main subject of the document, Azerbaijan’s crackdown on human rights and its failing democracy.
Whether it was appropriate to mention Artsakh in the resolution, and revising the wording of the resolution, was raised more than once during the debate.
Mme Duranton (France) noted that Azerbaijan used the Artsakh issue to justify its problems with democratization; Marieluise Beck (Germany) said that the conflict must not become Azerbaijan’s “alibi”.
In his speech presenting his findings, Agramunt (Spain) said that he was subjected to insults, attacks, and libel while making the report on Azerbaijan’s democracy. Co-rapporteur Iwinski added that it was likely the most difficult report he had ever made. To create the report, Agramunt and Iwinski met with lawyers and other representatives of civil society in Baku, as well as visited two prisons.
Other concerns discussed during the meeting included the president of Azerbaijan’s increasing executive power, the lack of representation of opposition groups in parliament, the increasing number of reprisals against independent media and advocates of freedom of expression, and the closing of the OSCE Baku office.