SP Senator Kox to Azerbaijan: Improve human rights now!

25 May 2014

SP Senator Kox to Azerbaijan: Improve human rights now!

'Now that Azerbaijan is to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of Europe, it must really give priority to a substantial improvement of human rights at home,’ SP Senator Tiny Kox said this week in Baku, capital of the oil-rich country on the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan joined Europe’s oldest human rights organisation in 2000, but human rights activists continue to suffer harassment, arrest and imprisonment.

Tiny Kox'Reports from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Human Rights Commissioner, as well as European Court of Human Rights judgments, have shown that Azerbaijan does not as things stand fulfil the obligations freely accepted when it became a Council of Europe member state. The presidency is the moment to bring about serious improvements here,’ Kox told the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the president of the Azerbaijan parliament in Baku, where the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) gathered this week.

Criticism from Kox, in Baku as chair of the Left Group in PACE, were echoed by others. Speaking n behalf of the Azerbaijan government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs informed the meeting that his country knew what it had to do but that there was no cause for concern. ‘The process is advancing,’ he said, but his statement failed to convince Kox and his colleagues.

In a remarkably powerful speech on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgment which this week savaged the condemning of a Council of Europe member to seven years’ imprisonment, PACE president Anne Brasseur (Luxemburg) recalled that European Human Rights Commissioner had said that this seemed to be retrogression, rather than progress. She recalled also that she herself had asked to speak with a number of prisoners who had been condemned on dubious grounds. In addition, she informed the meeting that no further meetings of the Council of Europe would take place in Azerbaijan for the next two years, unless the government could guarantee that everyone who was invited would receive a visa. She called on the government as the new Council of Europe president to use the next six months ‘to lead by setting a good example itself.’

After the meeting Senator Kox spoke with a large number of human rights activists, who had had major problems finding a place for their own gathering, the long arm of the government putting no value on such activities. He praised the activists’ courage, listened to their appalling accounts and asked that these be sent as soon as possible to himself and to the Council of Europe. ‘In June President Aliev and his Foreign Minister will be coming to Strasbourg,’ he reminded them. ‘You can therefore ensure that we ask him the truly important questions and perhaps help your country in the future to no longer lag behind when it comes to human rights.’

In the meantime Kox will be visiting Moscow to speak with the president of the State Duma – the national parliament – leaders of the formal opposition and the leader of the Russian delegation in the Council of Europe about improving the currently icy relations between the organisation and its biggest member state. 'The less we speak, the more dangerous things will become in Europe,’ he said. ‘Ukraine stands on the point of exploding, in Moldavia the same things could happen, and relations between Russia and the rest of Europe are worse than they have been in years. We can’t carry on like this.’

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