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HELSINKI COMMISSION: AZERBAIJAN IS NOT MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
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The US Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, on June 11, strongly urged the Azerbaijani government to fulfill its obligations on human rights and democracy, instead of heading further towards authoritarianism. "We consider Azerbaijan an important friend and partner in the region and that means we care deeply about its development", said chairman of the Commission Senator Benjamin Cardin. Washington also has significant concerns regarding Azerbaijan's domestic political situation, which, as Senator Cardin said, "It is troubling because Azerbaijan is moving in the wrong direction." Along with problems on freedom of media and association, last two years have marked high number of arrests and convictions of activists, harassment on politically motivated charges and announcement of verdicts. "Our concern is that rather than working to live up to its commitments in the OSCE and the CoE, Azerbaijan is instead heading towards greater authoritarianism. We want to work with Azerbaijan to change this trend," he added. "The US wants to see a stable and prosperous Azerbaijan. But by the absence of real democratic progress, we will not see true stability and development," he emphasized. Azerbaijani ambassador to the US did not participate in the hearings. He stated that he was at other consultation on security. The hearings in Helsinki Commission is important because the representative staff of the Congress is getting ready to the bilateral meetings and the session of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia, who was refused to enter Azerbaijan, last September underlined the importance of dialogue on democracy between two countries. "While serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, I have visited Azerbaijan three times, holding valuable meetings with leading government officials, including President Ilham Aliyev, as well as with opposition political leaders, civil society actors, and journalists. I believe this is important opportunity to listen to Azerbaijanis outside of government," he said. Thomas Melia added that best way to guarantee the stability is to respect strengthening of democratic processes and institutions, rule of law and fundamental freedoms. According to Melia, situation in Azerbaijan on freedoms of citizens has deteriorated in last 5 years and continues worsening. In 2009, it was already difficult for advocates of democratic reform - especially opposition political parties - to participate in the political life of the country, but it was still possible for NGOs and independent activists to operate. The environment has worsened significantly since then while the suppression of peaceful dissent increased in 2011, with the arrests of young Azerbaijani activists who sought to organize peaceful rallies in Baku. Since early 2013, the space for peaceful dissents has narrowed more dramatically, and the exercise of fundamental freedoms has become still more tenuous. A number of leading peaceful democracy advocates, civil society activists, and journalists have been jailed, including presidential candidate and chairman of the democratic reform-oriented REAL Movement, Ilgar Mammadov; opposition journalist and Musavat Party Deputy Chairman Tofig Yagublu; members of NIDA youth movements; blogger Abdul Abilov; religious scholar and activist Taleh Bagirzade; Khural Editor Avaz Zeynalli; and the chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, Anar Mammadli. "Restrictions on the ability of selected Azerbaijani activists to travel outside of the country are also a problem, calling into question the extent of the government's commitment to the main principles of the OSCE," Melia said, arguing, that since 2006, the government has prevented the foreign travel of opposition Popular Front Party Chairman Ali Karimli by refusing to renew his passport. Eric Rubin, deputy assistant secretary of state underscored Azerbaijan's positive security and energy cooperation with the west. But democracy and human rights issues remain as the priority for the USA. Using its oil as a means of influence, speaker Miriam Lanskoy, director for Russia and Eurasia, National Endowment for Democracy, emphasized that the oil-reach country leadership "changes the subject" of human rights to divert attention away, "no follow through" on commitments to OSCE. Alongside with this, Azerbaijan is about to host the OSCE PA at the end of June". Despite participation in these international forums, over the last decade freedoms in Azerbaijan have declined substantially. Overall, the country has gone from semi-free to state of consolidated authoritarianism. Recent events in Ukraine have major implications for Azerbaijan, and are seen as part of the reason that the crackdown on government critics has continued. The climate has also become much more difficult for the NGOs. February 2013 amendments to the NGO law increased existing sanctions against unregistered NGO activity. "It became illegal for unregistered NGOs to receive grants or donations. In conjunction with arbitrary refusal of registration, this places civic activists in an impossible position. The amendments have also dramatically increased penalties for any NGO that does not register its grants," she said. NED representative believes that Azerbaijan should bring its legislation in compliance with ECHR and Venice Commission opinions.
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Added: 2014-06-13
Category: Şəffaflıq
Duration: 0:05:01
Video Description: HELSINKI COMMISSION: AZERBAIJAN IS NOT MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION