ODIHR Director Discussed in Baku Co-operation on Democratization and Human Rights

The strengthening of co-operation between Azerbaijan and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on democratization and human rights related issues were the focus of a two-day visit to Baku by ODIHR Director Ambassador Christian Strohal, Trend reports with reference to the statement of the OSCE.

During his visit, Ambassador Strohal met Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Speaker of Parliament Ogtay Asadov, a number of other senior officials, as well as representatives of political parties and civil society.

"The OSCE has been able to contribute to success stories in some areas, such as education in tolerance and non-discrimination, fighting against trafficking in human beings, and the training of police and judges. This demonstrates that we should renew our efforts in 2007 to achieve progress with OSCE commitments in other areas, Strohal said.

Ambassador Strohal also called on Azerbaijan's leaders to implement recommendations made by the ODIHR after the 2005 parliamentary elections, as well as others made by the Office and Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. The ODIHR works together with the Venice Commission in helping Azerbaijan to reform its legislation, in particular of the Electoral Code and the Law on Freedom of Assembly.

The ODIHR Director also discussed ways of improving the human rights situation in centres of detention, specifically through monitoring mechanism to investigate alleged police abuses, as well as ensuring the freedom of the media.

"Dialogue among authorities, political parties and civil society is not only desirable but necessary for achieving these goals. Together with the authorities and the OSCE Office in Baku, we look forward to supporting such a dialogue in the coming year," he said.

Ambassador Strohal noted that he was encouraged by the ongoing work of Azerbaijani civil society organizations and underlined the need to strengthen their role. "A strong civil society will be a cornerstone in Azerbaijan's further democratic development, and the ODIHR stands ready to help develop this capacity," he said.

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