Doc. 10692

30 September 2005

Follow-up to Resolution 1359 (2004) on political prisoners in Azerbaijan
Recommendation 1711 (2005)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 939th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (28 September 2005)

1.       The Committee of Ministers recalls the particular attention which it has always paid to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. It notes the progress made by the Azerbaijani authorities on this matter, in particular through the pardons issued by the President of Azerbaijan on 20 March and 20 June 2005.

2.       As regards the cases which are closely followed by the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers notes with interest the Azerbaijani authorities’ initiative to establish a task force with NGOs in order to examine these cases, as well as the Azerbaijani authorities’ undertaking stated in the Memorandum of 11 June 2005 ‘to use every legal remedy […] to settle this problem’. The Committee of Ministers expects that the work of the task force will contribute to rapidly finding an appropriate solution to all these cases. The Committee of Ministers also expects that those prisoners who are seriously ill, or who can benefit from an earlier conditional release, or who were convicted in breach of the principles of a fair trial, as well as all other prisoners whose cases are contentious, will be dealt with by the Azerbaijani authorities with humanity and will be released or retried, during trials which meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, as soon as possible.

3.        The Committee of Ministers welcomes the fact that the Azerbaijani authorities have taken legal action which will enable the seven opposition leaders who were arrested after the October 2003 events to run for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, as they had been urged to do during the last visit of the Monitoring Group GT-SUIVI.AGO to Baku.

4.       The Committee of Ministers shares the opinion of the Assembly that the very existence of the issue of political prisoners has revealed serious shortcomings in the operation of Azerbaijan’s judicial system. It therefore attaches the utmost importance to the activities carried out by the Organisation for the reform of this system, in order to secure the independence of the judiciary and fair trial conditions. The Committee of Ministers notes the steps which have already been taken by the Azerbaijani authorities to this effect and expects that they will continue to actively co-operate in the implementation of these activities. The Committee of Ministers also notes that the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan has been forwarded to the Council of Europe in order to review its conformity with the relevant standards of the Organisation.

5.       The Committee of Ministers expects that all the above-mentioned problems will be solved in the nearest future.