Europe turns its back on Azerbaijan’s political prisoners

The future for political prisoners in Azerbaijan looks bleak after politicians at the Council of Europe (CoE) failed adopt an important resolution today calling for more than 80 cases to be resolved.

Azerbaijani authorities repeatedly deny the presence of any political prisoners in the country, which commands huge business interests around the world, including among several MPs from the United Kingdom, several of whom voted against the resolution.

Disappointment among those who campaign for free expression in Azerbaijan was palpable, with several NGO representatives referring to the vote — 79 in favour and 125 against — as a disgrace.

Among those being held on spurious charges are journalists Avaz Zeynalli, Hilal Mammadov and Vugar Gonagov.

The resolution was based on a report by Rapporteur Christoph Strasser, who was repeatedly denied entry into Azerbaijan to carry out his mandate. Several delegates refused to recognise the resolution on grounds that Strasser prepared his report from outside the oil-rich country.

However, free expression advocates welcomed the adoption of a resolution calling for continued monitoring of the country’s record on free speech and human rights, with 196 members voting in favour and only 13 against. The resolution was based on a report by the CoE’s rapporteurs to Azerbaijan, who expressed “growing concern with regard to rule of law and respect for human rights” in the country and encouraged the Azerbaijani government to strengthen its commitment to honour human rights obligations.

Index on Censorship and Crow Hill Films invite you to a screening of Amazing Azerbaijan! followed by a discussion on Azerbaijan and human rights on 30 January.