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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on Azerbaijan, notably the case of Mehman Huseynov

15.1.2019 - (2019/2511(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 135 of the Rules of Procedure

Elena Valenciano, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Ana Gomes on behalf of the S&D Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0056/2019

Postopek : 2019/2511(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on Azerbaijan, notably the case of Mehman Huseynov


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Azerbaijan, and specifically the Resolution on the case of Afgan Mukhtarli and the situation of media in Azerbaijan of 15 June 2017, the Resolution on corruption and human rights in third countries of 13 September 2017, and the Resolution on the negotiations on the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement of 4 July 2018,


–  having regard in particular to its recommendation of 15 November 2017 on the Eastern Partnership, which calls for Azerbaijan to comply with its international commitments and which unambiguously states that no comprehensive agreement will be ratified with a country that does not respect the EU’s fundamental values and rights, in particular with regard to the failure to implement decisions by the ECtHR and with respect to harassment, intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders, NGOs, opposition members, lawyers, journalists, bloggers, and environmental as well as anti-corruption activists and representatives of civil society in general,


–  having regard to its recommendation of 4 July 2018 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on the negotiations on the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement,


–  having regard to the a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and Azerbaijan, which took effect in 1999, the creation of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and Azerbaijan’s participation in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (PA),

–  having regard to the mandate adopted on 14 November 2016 for the European Commission and the VP/HR to negotiate, on behalf of the EU and its Member States, a comprehensive agreement with the Republic of Azerbaijan and the launch of the negotiations on the abovementioned agreement on 7 February 2017, as well as the need to ensure that a suspension mechanism with clear provisions on respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms is included in the new agreement,

–  having regard to the statements by the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, of 7 January 2019, and by the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe International NGO (INGO) Conference of 7 January 2019, on the case of blogger Mehman Huseynov,

–  having regard to the statement of the VP/HR on the sentencing of Mehman Huseynov in Azerbaijan of 7 March 2017,

–  having regard of last report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its mission to Azerbaijan of the United Nations Human Rights Council;

–  having regard to the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights of 10 January 2019 on the complaint of journalist Khadija Ismayilova against the government of Azerbaijan, wherein the Court found a violation of the rights of Ismayilova under Articles 8 (respect for personal and family life) and 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and set a compensation for the journalist,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 124(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.Whereas Mehmen Huseynov is a jailed Azerbaijani human rights defender, editor-in-chief of the SANCAQ magazine and Chairman of the Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety (IRFS) which latter position he took on after his predecessor Rasil Aliyev died as a result of having been attacked in August 2015 in Baku, and whereas immediately prior to his arrest on 9 January 2017, Mr Huseynov had been working on the “Hunt for Corrupt Officials” public campaign , which had exposed corruption at very high levels of Azerbaijan’s ruling elite;


B.whereas on 26 December 2018 a new criminal charge was brought against the jailed anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov, Chairman of the Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety (IRFS), on accusations of violence against prison officials in ‘Prison No 14’; whereas these charges were initially made under Article 315.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan (“resistance or application of violence towards a representative of authority – application of violence, posing a threat to life or health”), and later changed to Article 317.2 (“application of violence not dangerous to life or health of employees of criminal - executive establishments or investigator isolators”); whereas Mr Huseynov’s lawyer was not allowed to visit him after the accusations of attacking a prison guard were tabled and Mr Huseynov was placed in solitary confinement;


C.whereas these new charges against Mehman Huseynov could extend his prison sentence for up to 7 years and come when he has just two months left of his current prison sentence, which he is serving since March 2017, following a conviction for defamation under Part 2 of Article 147 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, after he had publicly criticised his country’s officials for corruption and accused the police of torture; whereas the abovementioned charges are bous and are solely aimed at maintaining him arbitrarily in detention, a practice used by Azerbaijani authorities against other detained critics in the past;

D.whereas as a consequence of these new charges, Mehman Huseynov initiated a hunger strike in protest; whereas, despite him having now re-started the intake of liquid food, his health condition remains extremely worrying as he is suffering from a condition called varicose vein rapture and requires urgent medical intervention;


E.whereas fellow-journalists and supporters among ordinary citizens who protested against potential additional charges on Huseynov on 4 and 6 January have been subjected to administrative persecution, with court-ordered sanctions against them, namely: – Mete Turksoy – 25 days administrative arrest, Afghan Sadıgov (journalist) 22 days administrative arrest, Nurlan Gahramanli (journalist) 21 days administrative arrest, Elimkhan Aghayev - 21 days administrative arrest, Sakhavat Nabiyev - 20 days administrative arrest, Ismayil Islamoghlu (journalist) – 20 days administrative arrest Goshgar Ahmadov – 20 days administrative arrest Yashar Khaspoladov – 450 AZN fine, Farid Abdinov - 400 AZN fine, Elchin Rahimzade (journalist) - 400 AZN fine, Orkhan Mammadov – 400 AZN fine, Bakhtiyar Mammadli – 400 AZn fine, Fatima Movlamlı (journalist) - 300 AZN fine, Matanat Mahmırzayeva 300 AZN fine, Parvin Abıshova (journalist) 300 AZN fine; all of them being accused of violating laws on picketing, protesting and rallies - Article 513.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses;


F.whereas, according to the Eastern partnership Civil Society Forum, this is already the fifth recent case where a political prisoner is facing new proceedings while in prison just before the end of the current term;


G.whereas consistent reports of intimidation and harassment, including arbitrary arrest and detention, ill-treatment and conviction of human rights defenders, youth activists, political opponents, independent journalists and bloggers on allegedly politically motivated trumped-up administrative or criminal charges of hooliganism, drug possession, economic crimes, tax evasion, abuse of office, incitement to violence or hatred, are unacceptable and intolerable and represent extensive restrictions on freedom of expression in practice, as reported by the last report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its mission to Azerbaijan of the United Nations Human Rights Council


H.whereas the climate for media and free speech in Azerbaijan is extremely repressive and has not shown any substantial progress, Azerbaijan is ranked 163rd among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders, and upwards of ten journalists are currently serving prison terms among the dozens of political prisoners and of conscience in Azerbaijan;


I.whereas several independent media websites and portals remain blocked and inaccessible inside the country, including Azadliq Radio (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Azerbaijan Service) and its international service, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Azadliq newspaper (independent of Azadliq Radio), Meydan TV, and Azerbaijan Saadi (Azerbaijan Hour), among others;


J.whereas in late 2017 and early 2018, scores of Azerbaijani citizens were questioned for posting critical commentary on Facebook, or simply liking a social media status, or clicking “attend” for political rallies, with at least three bloggers presently serving a prison term - Mehman Huseynov; Rashad Ramazanov, Ilkin Rustamzada;


K.whereas amendments introduced to the Code of Civil and Administrative Procedure and the Bar Act in late 2017 prohibit practicing lawyers, who are not members of the Bar Association, from appearing in court;


L.whereas numerous lawyers have been disbarred in 2018, including Khalid Bagirov, Elchin Namazov, Farhad Mehdiyev, Aslan Ismayilov, Muzaffar Bakhishov, Alain Hasanov and Yalchin Imanov; whereas Sadigiv is facing a disciplinary inspection; whereas licenses of Fakhraddin Megdiyev, Asabali Mustafayev and Nemat Karimli were suspended for one year, in order to prevent them from representing political prisoners;


M.whereas Afgan Mukhtrali, independent Azerbaijani journalist was abducted in Tbilisi, Georgia in May 2017 by unknown individuals and brought to Azerbaijan, was sentenced in January 2018 by the court in Azerbaijan to six years in prison on bogus charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling and violently resisting a law enforcement official;


N.whereas investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is facing new criminal charges; whereas in December 2018, the Baku Economic and Administrative Court ordered Ismayilova to pay a fine of over 23.000 EUR for an alleged income tax evasion case by Radio Free Europe where she worked as an editor and never held a position of a legal representative; whereas her lawyer, Yalchin Imanov, is among those who were disbarred from the Azerbaijani bar association, thus leaving her without a legal representative;


O.whereas young activists Giyas Ibrahimov, Bayram Mammadov and Ilkin Rustamzadeh continue to serve long prison sentences of 10, 10, and 8 years respectively on trumped-up charges;


P. whereas in April 2018 an independent investigation into corruption allegations focused on Azerbaijan concluded ‘strong suspicions’ that several members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly (PACE) were bribed to soften the body’s criticism of the serious human rights violations in Azerbaijan;


Q.Whereas the authorities of Azerbaijan continue to target leading and rank-and-file memnbers of opposition political parties, including with the sentencing of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) Deputy Chairwoman Gozel Bayramli, leading member Orkhan Bakhishli, opposition Musavat party member Alikram Khurshidov, and maintaining Mammad Ibrahim, advisor to the APFP’s chairman, in prison on bogus additional charges after the end of his prison term;


R.whereas in July 2018 the EU and Azerbaijan finalised the Partnership Priorities that set the joint policy priorities that will guide and enhance the EU-Azerbaijan partnership over the coming years; and whereas through the Partnership Priorities, the EU and Azerbaijan renewed their commitment to an ambitious and comprehensive agenda that should reflect the values and principles of the European Neighbourhood Policy, including respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and dialogue with civil society.


S.whereas the Baku City Executive Authority has declined authorisation for a rally planned on 12 January in support of Mehman Huseynov and other political prisoners, organised by the opposition party Musavat; whereas this refusal highlights the repression in the country and the enormous limitations in place regarding freedom of expression, association and public assembly;


1.Demands the immediate and unconditional release of Mehman Huseynov and urges the Azerbaijani government to drop all new charges against him; expresses concern over his health and demands that the authorities provide him with unfettered access to urgent professional medical care, his family and legal counsel;


2.Calls for an end to Azerbaijan’s crackdown on dissent and calls for the immediate and unconditional release from jail of all political prisoners, including journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society activists, including but not limited to Afgan Mukhtarli, Ilkin Rustamzadeh, Rashad Ramazanov, Seymur Hazi, Giyas Ibrahimov, Mehman Huseynov, Bayram Mammadov, Ilgar Mammadov, Araz Guliyev, Tofig Hasanli, Ilgiz Qahramanov, Afgan Sadygov and others, including, but not limited to, those covered by the relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and calls for all charges against them to be dropped, and for the full restoration of their political and civil rights, also extended to previously imprisoned and since released political prisoners such as Intigam Aliyev, Khadija Ismayilova and others, in line with Azerbaijan's international commitments as a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe


3.Expresses concern over the new criminal charges brought against Khadija Ismayilova and calls for them to be dropped as well as the travel ban ended, bringing an end to the continuous harassment and intimidation against her, which is detrimental to freedom of expression in the country; also calls for the travel bans of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience to be lifted, and all decisions of the ECtHR to be fully implemented, as well the freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and association to be respected;


4.Should the above demands not be met, calls on the Commission and EEAS to establish a targeted list of sanctions (including travel bans to and freezing of assets in the EU) against the Azeri officials responsible for and involved in the repression against political prisoners, reporters and bloggers, anti-corruption activists, human rights defenders and members of civil society in general as well as ordinary citizens of all walks of life having fallen afoul of the regime for political reasons;


5.Calls on the European Commission, as well as on financial bodies and organisations including but not limited to the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to suspend all financing for Azerbaijan state structures and enterprises and joint ventures - with the exception of programmes directly benefitting victims of state violence and repression on political grounds i,e. political prisoners, reporters and bloggers, anti-corruption activists, human rights defenders and members of civil society in general as well as ordinary citizens of all walks of life having fallen afoul of the regime for political reasons;


6.Emphasises that the European Parliament will not grant its consent to a new agreement with Azerbaijan unless the aforementioned political prisoners and prisoners of consciences are speedily released and free from persecution;


7.Considers the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, as ultimately responsible for the unprecedented prosecution of bloggers and journalists as direct retaliation for theirs having exposed pervasive corruption and organised crime at all levels of the country, with links to several EU Member States;


8.Calls for a thorough and complete investigation by competent anti-fraud and anti–money laundering authorities, with the cooperation of the European Commission, the External Action Service, the European Anti-Fraud Office and the Member States, into the serious allegations raised by the “Azeri Laundromat” scandal with relation to EU Member States and nationals suspected of having been party to corrupt and criminal practices;


9.Is particularly alarmed about the human rights defenders’ reports on cases of physical violence and torture while in custody;


10.Urges the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that independent civil society groups and activists can operate without undue hindrance or fear of persecution, including by repealing the laws restricting civil society activities, unfreezing bank accounts of non-governmental groups and their leaders, and allowing access to foreign funding;


11.Demands that the independence of judiciary be guaranteed and protection of lawyers from disbarment improved; strongly condemns the practice of disbarring lawyers in order to prevent them from representing political prisoners;


12.Urges the government of Azerbaijan to fully comply with all ECHR rulings, cooperate with and implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN special procedures in regard to human rights defenders, the rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and arbitrary detention, with the aim of amending its legislation and adapting its practices in full conformity with the conclusions of the experts and the international community;


13.Calls on Azerbaijan to fully respect freedom of the press and media, both in legislation and in practice and both online and offline, to guarantee freedom of expression in line with international standards and to end censorship of criticism of the government via media outlets; urges Azerbaijan to restore access to independent media websites and portals, including Azadliq Radio (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Azerbaijan Service) and its international service, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Azadliq newspaper (independent of Azadliq Radio), Meydan TV, and Azerbaijan Saadi (Azerbaijan Hour), among others;


14.Expresses serious concern over the situation of LGBTI people in Azerbaijan and over the authorities’s behavior of arbitrary arrests and, in particular, for torture and other ill-treatment LGBT people and of detaining people on dubious charges, beating and using electric shocks on some of them to coerce bribes and information about other gay me; calls on the Azerbaijani government to stop obstructing and intimidating human rights defenders working for LGBTI people ;


15.Expresses concern over allegations involving several members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly (PACE) and denounces attempts by Azerbaijan to influence European decision-makers through illicit means in order to hinder criticism of serious human rights violations, endemic corruption including at the very highest levels, and denial of good governance as well as rule-of-law in Azerbaijan;


16.Notes the new partnership agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan; stresses that democratic reforms, the rule of law, good governance, and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be at the core of the new agreement; reminds that it will closely monitor the situation throughout the negotiations on a new agreement prior to deciding on whether to give its consent or not; emphasises that the current human rights, governance and rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of media and corruption situation in Azerbaijan does not warrant deepening of EU-Azerbaijan cooperation;


17.Calls on the Council, the Commission and the VP/HR to make the release of Mehman Huseynov and all other political prisoners in Azerbaijan central in the continued EU-Azerbaijan Human Rights Dialogue as well as in the negotiations on a new agreement, and urges the VP/HR and EEAS officials to publicly and privately express grave concern about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan to the Azerbaijani authorities;


18.Urges the EU and Member States’ delegations in Azerbaijan to redouble their efforts to support and assist political prisoners, reporters and bloggers, anti-corruption activists, human rights defenders and members of civil society in general as well as ordinary citizens of all walks of life having fallen afoul of the regime for political reasons;


19.Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the European External Action Service, the Commission, the President, Government and Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE.


Zadnja posodobitev: 15. januar 2019
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