Doc. 10473

14 March 2005

Follow-up to Resolution 1359 (2004) on political prisoners in Azerbaijan

Motion for a resolution

presented by Mr Bruce and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1. On 27 January 2004 the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights submitted to the Assembly its third report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. On that occasion, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1359, in which it "formally ask[ed] the government of Azerbaijan for the immediate release on humanitarian grounds of political prisoners whose state of health is very critical, prisoners whose trials were illegal, prisoners having been political activists or eminent members of past governments, and members of their families, friends or persons who were linked to them … [and] the remaining political prisoners already identified on the experts' list."

2. At that time the Assembly concluded "if there is no solution to the problem of the political prisoners by the Assembly's autumn 2004 part-session, Azerbaijan's presence within the Council of Europe will have reached a critical stage."

3. In July 2004, the independent experts appointed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe three years before completed their work. The experts adopted a total of 126 opinions concerning the cases referred to them in 2001 and concluded that 62 of the persons concerned were political prisoners.

4. Since the adoption of Resolution 1359 more than one year ago, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr Ilham Aliyev, has issued four pardon decrees, on 17 March, 10 May, 3 September and 29 December 2004 respectively.

5. Some prisoners have been released, among them a number of high-ranking political figures (classed as political prisoners by the Secretary General’s experts), including Iskander Gamidov, Suret Huseynov and Alikram Gumbatov. Their release was a symbolic act and a positive sign to the international community.

6. However, the latest decree, issued on 29  December 2004, which enabled the release of only one political prisoner and of four alleged political prisoners, is a real disappointment given hopes placed by international observers, including the Parliamentary Assembly, in the authorities’ willingness to resolve the issue of the presumed political prisoners once and for all, and to fulfil the commitments they entered into. The constructive dialogue established between the Assembly and the Azerbaijani authorities now seems to be marking time.

7. In view of the commitments undertaken and the assurances given by the authorities of Azerbaijan over the last four years, the present situation cannot be described as satisfactory, nor can the issue of the political prisoners be regarded as closed. On the contrary:

-        9 political prisoners are still in prison. The retrial of one of them is still pending.

-        47 persons who were not recognised as political prisoners by the independent experts are also still in prison, including several contentious cases or cases of prisoners allegedly suffering serious health problems which the Parliamentary Assembly’s rapporteur has brought to the authorities’ attention.

-        at least 81 persons whose cases were not submitted to the independent experts (individuals omitted from the original list submitted to the experts or arrested after the start of their mandate) but who are considered by the Assembly as alleged political prisoners are also still in prison.

-        On top of this come 47 persons arrested and sentenced in connection with the events of October 2003 and who are still imprisoned.

8. In the light of the requests it has repeatedly made, it is clear that the Assembly cannot declare itself satisfied. The authorities gave firm promises that the matter would be settled to the Assembly's satisfaction by the autumn 2004 part-session. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The present situation is causing exasperation and frustration, especially among the prisoners’ families, many of whom continue to place their hopes for early releases in the Assembly.

9. Some developments are even more worrying: people continue to be arrested, despite the Assembly’s repeated requests, in connection both with the events of October 2003 and also with the same earlier ones. New names are being added to the lists of presumed political prisoners. Prisoners are released, but others are simultaneously arrested. There can be no doubt that these arrests are politically motivated.

10. The process of releasing prisoners must be continued and completed without delay. The Assembly will shortly revise its attitude towards Azerbaijan if that is not the case.

Signed 1:

BRUCE, Malcom, United Kingdom, LDR

AGUIAR, Manuela, Portugal, EPP/CD

AZEVEDO, Maria Eduarda, Portugal, EPP/CD

BINDIG, Rudolf, Germany, SOC

BUDIN, Milos, Italy, SOC

CILEVIČS, Boriss, Latvia, SOC

DENDIAS, Nikolaos, Greece, EPP/CD

EXNER, Václav, Czech Republic, UEL

GARDETTO, Jean-Charles, Monaco, EPP/CD

McNAMARA, Kevin, United Kingdom, SOC

NARO, Giuseppe, Italy, EPP/CD

POURGOURIDES, Christos, Cyprus, EPP/CD

RAPSON, Syd, United Kingdom, SOC

SHARANDIN, Yuri, Russia, EDG

VAREIKIS, Egidijus, Lithuania, EPP/CD

1 .       SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group