OSCE Deeply Concerned Over Police Action in Baku

(OSCE/RFE)–The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Wednesday expressed "deep concern" over police violence against opposition supporters protesting the results of Azerbaijan’s parliamentary elections earlier this month.

Through a statement–the head of the OSCE office in Baku–Maurizio Pavesi said that the police violence "started without any warning" and could not be justified.

On November 26–police used truncheons–tear gas–and water cannon to disperse thousands of demonstrators protesting official election results–which gave a landslide victory to President Ilham Aliyev’s party. According to some reports–over 400 demonstrators and several journalists were injured–while 30 people were detained.

"International standards must be matched not only during the drafting of legislation–but most importantly in the implementation of the letter and spirit of the law," said Pavesi.

He also stressed that the principle of defending public order cannot be used to justify the police violence–particularly when demonstrators did not actually disrupt public order–but were merely in violation of administrative decisions.

The police action started when the demonstration exceeded its legally permitted time–and the opposition parties expressed their intention to start a peaceful sit-in.

Underlining the importance of a dialogue for normalizing political life in the country–Pavesi said: "We hope that the recent declarations of willingness to start a dialogue–made both by the authorities and opposition parties–will result in concrete actions. The OSCE stands ready to facilitate such an initiative–if its help would be welcomed by both sides.

"The OSCE Office assumes that the events of 26 November will not be cited as grounds for imposing any further restrictions on the fundamental constitutional right to freedom of assembly."

At the same time–Pavesi also called on the opposition to "refrain from actions that are only conducive to creating further tension."

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