The Council of Europe Venice Commission has publicized a conclusion on the Law on Freedom and Assembly in Azerbaijan, adopted by the Commission at its 68th Plenary session in Venice on October 13-14, 2006, VC Secretary Keroline Hodard.
The present opinion, which was coordinated with the OSCE/ODIHR, was drawn up on the basis of comments by Mr. Bogdan Aurescu, Ms. Finola Flanagan and Mr. Peter Paczolay.
On May 5, 2006, the Head of the Administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, requested the opinion of the Venice Commission on the Law on Freedom of Assembly in Azerbaijan adopted in November 1998 (CDL(2006)058).
A Round Table on the Freedom of Assembly in Azerbaijan was organized by the OSCE Office in Baku on September 19, 2006. The Round Table focused on the above-mentioned Law and its implementation in practice. The opinion was made on the basis of commentary by representatives of Azerbaijan, as well as OSCE and Venice Commission.
The Venice Commission experts came to a conclusion that it is positive that there are correct statements of principle governing freedom of assembly in the Constitution, the Constitutional Law and the Law under consideration. However the Law sets out with excessive details the conditions for exercising the constitutionally guaranteed right of assembly, especially where its exercise would pose no threat to public order and where necessity does not in fact demand state intervention. The relevant regulation should focus on what is forbidden rather than on what is allowed: it should be clear that all that what is not forbidden is permissible, and not vice-versa. The philosophy of the Law should therefore be changed.
The Law entails excessive differentiation between categories of assemblies in a manner which is not properly linked to permissible reasons for restrictions. The Law does not adequately reflect the fact that the state may be required to intervene to secure conditions permitting the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly.
The Venice Commission states its readiness to assist the Azerbaijani authorities to improve the Law.
The Azerbaijani officials avoided commenting on the conclusion by international experts on the law.