(Interview of Elmira Suleymanova, Azerbaijani Ombudsman, Candidate for the post of the CE Commissar on Human Rights, with Trend)

- How do you appreciate nomination of your candidacy for the post of the Council of Europe (CE) Commissar on Human Rights?

- It may be regarded as acknowledgement of democratic changes in Azerbaijan, fulfillment of commitments by Azerbaijan. The CE’s attitude to Azerbaijan is different than it was several years ago. On the other hand this fact may be considered in the view of strengthening of the Azerbaijan’s authority in the international organization. It is also acknowledgement of the work carried out by the first Azerbaijani ombudsman in the short interim.

3 international conferences with participation of ombudsmen from many countries have been held during the 3 years since my election to the post. They had the opportunity to get familiar with our work and impartially appreciate it. Besides, I was elected to different international ombudsman institutes, which also meant acknowledgement of our work. I had to participate at different international events, including arrangements organized by the CE Commissar. I was invited to the CE in late September 2004 and met practically with all commissions of the organization. In reply to our proposals the CE has held different seminars and trainings for the employees of the ombudsman’s office, seminar on implementation of the European convention on human rights in Azerbaijan for the last year.

- What is the election procedure of the Commissar on Human Rights?

- The Commissar is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of CE (PACE) by majority of votes from the candidatures, nominated by the CE Committee of Ministers. The Commissar is elected for 6 years. Different procedures forego it. Thus, unofficial interview with 8 candidates nominated for the post will take place on 5 September, while the meeting of CE Committee of Ministers will be held on 7 September to elect 3 candidatures to be presented to the PACE. They will pass interview on legal issues and human rights at the PACE Subcommittees on Human Rights. The final decision will be made by the PACE, presumably, in October during the autumn session. It is not the first elections of the CE commissar on Human Rights. The first Commissar was Alvarado Hill Robles, elected for the post in 1999.

This time candidatures for the post are nominated from 8 countries such as Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Latvia and Azerbaijan.

- What requirements are made for the candidacy to the post of the commissar?

- The commissar is due to be independent, impartial, unbiased, skillful in defense of human rights, understanding national and religious differences, and treating them with respect and tolerance. The commissar’s authority has a great role here. The same time commissar uses his experience in defense of human rights, obtained before election for the post. The first commissar established an institute and gained big authority not only in Europe.

- What is your vision about the activities of Commissar on Human Rights?

- The major part of the commissar’s work is his activities on observation of human rights in the countries of the region. Besides, he is due to propagate human rights, provide more complete and effective implementation of the CE documents in the sphere. The commissar assisted in establishment of ombudsman institutes in the countries, where they do not exist, as well as in improvement of activities of acting institutes. The commissar does not have the authority of legal character, but analyses situation and puts it for consideration of the appropriate CE commissions, presents his recommendations and ideas on elimination of human rights violations.

Robles’s greatest service was his consistent work on the adoption of 14th protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which allows the commissar to participate at the law proceedings as the third side.

- Is action program ready in case of election?

- It is too early to speak about it. Nevertheless, I have experience in the sphere and it allows me to present my ideas and appreciate what directions of the CE commissar’s activities may be improved. The goal of the second commissar’s work is to provide effective defense of human rights, assist defense of human rights in the national, regional and international level.

It seems to me, that involving the ombudsmen of all European countries in this work, one could carry out very interesting studies, a situational analysis of changes for the past years, since these countries joined CE. The analysis would lead to recommendations concerning further improvement of the work. It is time of development of new strategies and programs, which are due to be 3-level - national, regional and international. I think that the commissar is due to be engaged in wide spectrum of human right such as humanitarian rights, rights of owners and consumers, prisoners, old peoples, women, children, refugees and IDPs, drug addicts and AIDS-diseased peoples.

Exchange of experience in practical work requires a great attention, as no theories can settle the problem and purely practical exchange of experience in any specific case or in any specific line would be extremely interesting and useful. Another interesting aspect in the commissar’s work is network cooperation, i.e attracting of related enterprises gives high result in the network. The network cooperation actually allows involvement of all resources of the civil society.

- How the factor can affect the attitude of the international organizations to Azerbaijan and defense of the rights of the Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons?

- The CE commissar has the authority to cooperate with international organizations, such cooperation is big source of new ideas and forms for improvement of the ombudsman’s work.

We close cooperate with the UN, different bodies of the organization, particularly, the UN Supreme Commissariat on human rights. The UN Supreme Commissariat is also subjected to reforms and we have submitted our proposals in this regard. Expansion of the Azerbaijan’s international ties is very important. Azerbaijan intensively integrates to the world community and the European organizations. Azerbaijan is a member of many international organizations, which discuss problems of the armed conflicts and the people suffered from them, such as captives, hostages and internally displaced persons. There is the Commission on Migration, Refugees and Population under the PACE, performs a big work, and we have what to say. The commissar is due to have a wide vision of the refugees’ problem both in Europe and in his own country. We will be able to raise political, civil, economic, social and cultural issues, which are urgent for the region and the country, at all PACE commissions.

The visit of the CE Secretary General is scheduled for the nearest days and in my opinion it will be a new impulse for further development and more active cooperation with the international organization.

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