Elkhan Suleymanov, Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to Euronest PA, Member of Azerbaijani Delegation to PACE
The anti-Azerbaijani forces have recently and actively re-launched a wide-scale campaign with claims regarding political prisoners against our country within international organizations, as well as PACE.
It should be noted that a number of national NGOs based in Azerbaijan established relations with these anti-Azerbaijani forces and are financed from foreign sources. These national NGOs prepare the lists of different so-called political prisoners with the order of foreign centers, which finance them, and actively participate in the campaign with claims of many political prisoners in Azerbaijan together with their guardian anti-Azerbaijani forces within the international organizations.
In this context, I would like to stress that there were no the criteria for political prisoners in PACE for long years. As a consequence of continuous insistence by namely Azerbaijani side, PACE acknowledged the absence of the criteria for political prisoners, and finally, the report on the definition of political prisoners was discussed and put to vote in 2012.The voting ended in 89/89, and the report was considered as adopted not on the basis of the majority of PACE members, but in accordance with Rules of Procedure. This result showed a serious split in PACE. Thus, the credibility of those criteria is doubtful.
On the other hand, we observe the developments in the world, in particular in CoE member states and see that the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan does not strongly differ from other CoE member states. Nevertheless, the issue of political prisoners has never been applied to any other country, except Azerbaijan in PACE. Thus, a reasonable question arises: why is only Azerbaijan out of 47 member states claimed to have political prisoners, and why are the above-mentioned criteria with doubtful credibility applied only to our country? Doesn’t it indicate the violation of the principle of equal rights of the states in PACE and obvious discrimination against Azerbaijan?
Each person indicated as an alleged political prisoner in the submitted lists was brought to responsibility due to specific crimes, and the verdict was given about them by courts. As you know, those people have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if they don’t agree with the verdict of national courts.
The issue of political prisoners is a legal issue, and there are the verdicts of courts regarding the convicts. Therefore, the verdict of the court may be changed only by using the existing legal mechanisms. However, a number of national NGOs, their guardians - international organizations, and foreign anti-Azerbaijani forces don’t want to use this legal mechanism and politicize the issue. This contradicts the rule of law.
I would like to highlight an interesting point: a group of national NGOs and international organizations claim about the presence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. According to international judicial and legal rules in force, the plaintiff should prove his/her claim in the court. Thus, according to the above-mentioned international judicial and legal rules, the party claiming the presence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan (NGOs, international organizations, etc) should raise a claim that the person in question is a political prisoner and prove his/her claims before the court. I believe that the issue may only be resolved in this way on the legal context. Namely this resolution of the issue is able to block subjective and biased position of individual biased sides.
Interestingly, the people, who claim about the presence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, don’t agree with the fact that these alleged political prisoners were arrested for committing specific crimes, and they even don’t want to hear about it. For example, although Leyla Yunus was detained on specific charges, the European Union, the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, US State Department, and Foreign Ministry of Great Britain immediately made a statement, condemning Yunus’s arrest as another example of attacks to civil society in Azerbaijan. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House, Freedom and Security Institute of Reporters, and other several international NGOs claimed that Leyla Yunus was detained with fabricates charges for her activity in the sphere of human rights.
One of the main points is that Panarmenian, Azatutyun.am, and massispost Armenian online mass media published materials regarding the arrest of Leyla Yunus, saying that the charges were false and served to silence the voice of human rights defender. Armenian representative to OSCE evaluated the arrest of Yunus in his statement as a severe deterioration of the situation in the field of human rights and as a liquidation of possibilities for solution of conflict.
It is interesting, isn't it? The Armenian mass media and Armenian officials, who occupied the Azerbaijani territories for over 23 years, implement the ethnical cleansing policy against the Azerbaijanis in the occupied territories, and massively, brutally, and continuously violate the rights of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis,turn blind eye to the crimes committed by themselves against Azerbaijan, but is concerned about the violation of Leyla Yunus’s rights. Nonsense! It is a well-produced tragicomedy!!!
I believe that the statements of EU, CoE, PACE,US State Department, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, as well as a number of NGOs, made, by the way, at the same time with Armenian mass media, the situation of human rights of which is not pleasant either, and their attempts to politicize the claims on political prisoners in Azerbaijan serve to specific goal: to continuously press Azerbaijan and distract attention from the liberation of Azerbaijani territories by all means, claiming that there are these or other so-called problems, as well as so-called problem of political prisoners.
A question arises: if the above-mentioned countries and international organizations are really concerned about the violation of human rights, then why did they ignore the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories, mass, brutal, and constant violation of the rights of hundreds of thousands Azerbaijanis, blockade of Nakhichivan? Why didn't they press and apply any sanctions against the aggressor?
The answer is clear: if their real purpose was to defend human rights, they would make steps towards stopping the occupation lasting for 23 years and restoration of the rights of hundreds of thousands of people. Apparently, the real purpose of the above-mentioned countries and international organizations is not to defend the human rights, but to increase pressure against Azerbaijan, to support Armenia and to prolong the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories?
Therefore, I would like to highlight based on experience since 2001 up to day that although the Azerbaijani side shows humanity and phase by phase releases the alleged political prisoners indicated in the lists under different mechanisms envisaged in national legislation, the political prisoner campaign by international organizations doesn’t stop, but extends.
The analysis of the developments shows that anti-Azerbaijani campaign on political prisoners on the international world is systemic, controlled from the single center, the claims of political prisoners are considered an important and long-term part of this campaign, and will be used as one of the means to establish a negative image of Azerbaijan internationally on the eve of 2015 the First European Summer Olympic Games and Parliamentary elections.
I believe that in such a situation the Azerbaijani side should have a common and balanced position against these false claims and the main parts of this common position should be the following:
a) The side claiming the presence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan (NGO, international organizations, etc.) should be required to raise a claim that the person in question is a political prisoner and submit the court decision;
b) The political pressures of international organizations against Azerbaijan on the issue of political prisoners shouldn’t be paid attention until the occupied Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia are fully liberated, the violated rights of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis are restored, danger of humanitarian and environmental crisis caused by Sarsang water reservoir is eliminated, and long-term blockade of Nakhchivan is ended.