Rapporteurs welcome presidential pardon of prisoners in Azerbaijan, call for release of all political prisoners

Sunna Aevarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), rapporteur on reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, along with Sir Roger Gale (United Kingdom, EC) and Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), Monitoring Committee co-rapporteurs for Azerbaijan, today welcomed the release, following the Navruz presidential pardon, of more than 400 sentenced prisoners in Azerbaijan, including over 50 persons considered to be political prisoners.

“I welcome President Aliyev’s decision to release on humanitarian grounds a significant number of prisoners, including over 50 persons whose names appeared in my recent introductory memorandum on reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan,” said Ms Aevarsdottir. “A series of injustices against innocent people has been brought to an end, although much more remains to be done.”

“Whilst this latest pardon is of course welcome, the exercise of discretionary power by the executive is no substitute for an independent judiciary that prevents injustice and politically motivated detention in the first place,” added Sir Roger Gale. “I call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to press ahead urgently with fundamental reform of the judicial system, in line with standards and recommendations of the Council of Europe.”

“The problem of political prisoners has cast a shadow over Azerbaijan’s membership of the Council of Europe since the very beginning,” concluded Mr Schennach. “It is high time that not just some, but all political prisoners in Azerbaijan were released.”

Ms Aevarsdottir and, on a separate occasion, Sir Roger Gale and Mr Schennach all intend to conduct fact-finding visits to Azerbaijan in the coming months, with the issue of political prisoners on all of their agendas.