Azerbaijan, Baku / Trend corr A. Gasimova / Trend's interview with the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Christian Strohal :
Question: What measures and programs does the ODIHR plan to carry out in connection with the upcoming 2008 presidential elections in Azerbaijan?
Answer: The ODIHR has been engaging with Azerbaijan on electoral as well as other issues over a number of years. Next year's elections can therefore build on this cooperation and on recommendations made. As regards observation, we will look into possible activities once they are officially called.
Question: Is there a necessity for introducing changes to the Elections Code of Azerbaijan?
Answer: The ODIHR, together with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, has made recommendations regarding elements of the election legislation which should be further improved. These recommendations are publicly available and discussions with the authorities as to how to proceed are ongoing. We are pleased that specific election issues will be discussed in an inclusive manner in Baku during early November. Although the presidential election is one year away, it is important for improvements to the election legislation to be made with sufficient time to ensure that they can be properly implemented.
Question - How do you regard Russia?COs initiative on restriction of OSCE observation mission in the elections in the OSCE? The New York Times has recently reported that Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan joined this initiative?
Answer: Election observation sometimes tells uncomfortable truths, it is holding up a mirror. The solution is not to break the mirror, but to engage in a discussion how things that require improvement can be addressed. This proposal does not seem to address this objective in a constructive manner, but rather looks like trying to deconstruct a decade of successful international election observation by one of the most credible institutions there is.
Question: Along with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are also scheduled to hold presidential elections in 2008. Is there any common problem shared by the elections systems in the South Caucasus countries?
Answer: We are not in the habit of comparing countries.. What counts is that all OSCE States are bound by the same commitments on holding democratic elections.
Question: The ODIHR and the CIS mission frequently have different estimations of elections in the post-Soviet countries. What reasons would attribute to this?
Answer: I can only speak for our observation. Our work is transparent and based on a well-known and tested methodology which is publicly available; a methodology which has been developed based on observation of over 150 elections over the last 11 years. I would for one be interested in seeing concretely what the CIS election observation methodology is and what it is based on.
Question: The European Court on Human Rights is undergoing definite difficulties related to a large number of appeals from the Council of Europe countries. The European Union backed an initiative on the establishment of an Agency for Fundamental Rights. What are your views on cooperation of these organizations and how could this promote the improvement of the human rights situation?
Answer: I believe that the creation of the Fundamental Rights Agency will strengthen the EU's role in effectively protecting human rights. It should help shape a unique pool of expertise that can also influence the democratic development beyond the Union's borders. The agencies you mention have co-operated for several years on data management, policy development and best-practice networking. I hope that the EU will be putting a stronger emphasis on human rights through the Fundamental Rights Agency. Cooperation of all human rights institutions advances the protection of these rights.