The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has expressed concerns over Azerbaijan’s “unprecedented crackdown on human rights” and urged reforms to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
Meeting in a plenary session in Strasbourg on October 11, the parliamentarians adopted a resolution denouncing “the reported prosecution and detention of leaders of NGOs, human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and bloggers,” although some of them were released last year.
PACE cited cases of “torture and inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest, in police custody, and in prisons, and the lack of effective investigations, violations of the right to a fair trial, and violations of the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly."
The resolution also called on Azerbaijani authorities to “begin real and meaningful reforms” to remove the obstacles to the work of journalists and rights defenders.
In another resolution adopted on October 11, the parliamentarians urged Azerbaijan to strengthen parliamentary control over the executive and to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
“Recent constitutional changes could make the executive less accountable to parliament,” PACE warned.
The assembly also urged Azerbaijan to establish a justice system “genuinely independent, impartial, and free from interference by the executive.”
The head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, Samad Seyidov, rejected the resolutions and denounced a "campaign of hatred against Azerbaijan" aimed at creating a “cleavage" between Baku and the Council of Europe.
Western governments and international human rights groups have criticized Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's government for persistently persecuting independent media outlets, journalists, and opposition politicians and activists.
Aliyev, who has ruled the oil-producing South Caucasus country of nearly 10 million people since shortly before his father's death in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.