Trend Interview with the Council of Europe Director General for Political Affairs, Jean-Louis Laurens.
- Azerbaijan undertook a number of obligations while entering into the Council of Europe in 2001, certain part of which have almost been fulfilled fully. What questions remain on the agenda?
- First, I want to state that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will present a report regarding the obligations of Azerbaijan and it will be discussed at the spring session of the organization in April. This report will assess in details the fulfillment of the obligations by Azerbaijan. However, I can speak about the work that we carry out in this direction. The first priority sphere is the elections. It deals with the reformation of the Electoral Code and all aspects of organizing elections. It includes the composition of the election commissions, calculation of the votes, procedure of complaints, marking of fingers. Of course, it also includes the freedom of press, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly which have close relation with the election process.
However, it is impossible to link the freedom of expression with only elections. It should be a daily process. There is a great concern about certain pressure regarding the freedom of press, expression and assembly in Azerbaijan, including Criminal Code in connection with journalists.
Another sphere, in which Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe co-operate, is the legal sphere that envisages improvement of the court and penal system. It deals with all questions regarding the status of advocates and conditions in the prisons.
The next sphere of co-operation is the work with the local self-government bodies, which are still weak in Azerbaijan. The local communities do not possess enough potential for full formation and activities.
- Law-protectors in Azerbaijan consider that there is a need to restore PACE rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. What is the official attitude of the Council of Europe towards this question?
- Previously, I had been involved in work regarding the list of the political prisoners, which was sent to the PACE. I closely worked with two experts who had been involved in this work and researched the lists. As a result of this hard work, we achieved the pardon for hundreds of prisoners who had been arrested with political motives. And when it was a moment to prolong the period of the mandate of these experts, we decided that Azerbaijan has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and there is no need to prolong the mandate. It was decided that already there is an instance where the citizens may appeal for protection of their rights. However, I know that the situation has not been resolved fully, but I will not comment this question. PACE will express its attitude towards this question.
- Over the recent period, the European Court on Human Rights considered complaints of 3 citizens of Azerbaijan. Do You have information on other law suits made from Azerbaijan?
- First of all I can not say anything regarding the number of the law suits because I don't have such information. I know that presently there are more than 90,000 law suits in the European Court on Human Rights which should be considered. But I want to mention that there is crisis in the Court due to the increase of the law suits from all the countries. We want the courts to further develop in all Council of Europe participating countries so that the citizens do not need to appeal to the European Court. We support the settlement of their problems in places and therefore, we try to improve the courts in all organization member-countries, including Azerbaijan.
- The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe prepares a resolution regarding the election system in Azerbaijan. What is about the document and what Azerbaijan may await from this?
- I have not red this document. I know that it is a document that envisages the assessment of the situation with the local and regional authorities in the Council of Europe member-countries. In such documents, the Congress assesses the situation with the regional authorities and makes its recommendations.