Council of Europe

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The Council of Europe

Foundation of the Council of Europe:

The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organization and was founded in 1949.

Objectives:

The Council was created to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law, to promote awareness and encourage the development of Europe's cultural identity and diversity, to find common solutions to the challenges facing European society: such as discrimination against minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, bioethics and cloning, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, organized crime and corruption, cybercrime, violence against children, and to consolidate democratic stability in Europe by backing political, legislative and constitutional reform.

Main bodies:

The main bodies of the Council of Europe are the Secretary-General, the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Conference of INGOs.

Headquarters:

The headquarters of the Council of Europe is located in Strasbourg, France.

Secretary-General of the Council of Europe:

Ms. Maria Peychinovich Burić (Croatia) has been acting Secretary-General since September 18, 2019.

Official language:

English and French are two official languages. The Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly and Congress use German, Italian and Russian in some of their work.

Member states:

It includes 47 members, 28 of whom are members of the European Union.

 

Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe

Azerbaijan's membership in the Council of Europe:

The history of relations between Azerbaijan and Council of Europe started in 1992. So that, the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan sent a request to the Council of Europe to obtain the special guest status on 24th January of 1992.

On February 1995, the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) made a statement with an initiative to take into consideration the request of Azerbaijan to obtain the special guest status, according to the Recommendation 1247 (1994) which implies the right of three South Caucasus states to request for membership.

Azerbaijan was accepted as a member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) on its meeting held on 17-18 March of 1996.

In June of the same year the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, taking into consideration efforts of Azerbaijan towards building of a democratic state, accepted decision about granting the country the status of a special guest state.

On 13th July 1996, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan H.E. Mr. Haydar Aliyev wrote a letter to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe in which he expressed desire of Azerbaijan to become a full member of the Council of Europe and to join to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights) along with other members.

On 11th September 1996, on the 573rd meeting of the Committee of Ministers, Resolution (96) 32 was adopted, and it implied the accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe, the intensification of the negotiations with government bodies aiming to accelerate the democratization process in Azerbaijan and providing aid through partnership programs.  

On 20th January, 1998, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan issued a decree “On improving cooperation between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan and measures for the protection of Azerbaijan’s interests in Europe”.

On 3rd February, 1998, on the legislative initiative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Milli Majlis (Parliament) of the Republic of Azerbaijan passed the law on the abolition of the death penalty. (in fact, the moratorium on the execution for the death penalty had been valid since 1993). This decision was one of the greatest steps of the Republic of Azerbaijan made in the scale of protection of rights and freedoms of human and citizen.

On 16th August, 1998, the censorship on the press was abolished in Azerbaijan.

On 26-28th June, 2000, the next session of the PACE was held; during the voting with the participation of 126 parliamentarian - 120 voted for, 1against, and 5 remained neutral and consequently a positive opinion on the accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe was given.

On 17th January, 2001, on the Assembly of the Committee of Ministers, a decision to accept Azerbaijan as a full member of the Council of Europe was made.

On 15th April 2002, the Republic of Azerbaijan presented documents about ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols to the depositary and the convention and its protocols entered into force towards Azerbaijan. From that day on, persons under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan (citizens, non-citizens, legal persons and so on) have a right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (European Court).

 

Permanent Representation of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe

Since October 16, 2018, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe is Fakhraddin Ismailov.

 

Obligations of Azerbaijan as a Council of Europe member state

At the beginning of 2000, the Political Affairs Committee of the PACE sent the list of obligations of Azerbaijan as a Council of Europe member state to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Parliament) and this document was signed by the representatives of the political parties of Milli Majlis.

The draft version of the set of Recommendations consisted of 17 paragraphs and contained information about measures that will be taken with the aim of meeting European standards; also the position of the Council of Europe about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was stated. In this document, the PACE requested the Republic of Azerbaijan to accept particular obligations, divided into 5 groups according to their character.

In the first group, the list of the European Conventions to which Azerbaijan is obliged to join and the period of joining was stated.

In the second group recommendations to continue attempts to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in a peaceful way, to solve international and internal disagreements according to the principles of international law, including obligations of the Council of Europe member state, to refuse to use any form of violent methods against neighbors were given.

The third group of obligations covered issues about national legislation, mainly legislation on elections, including improving the laws “About Central Committee on Elections” and “About Elections to Milli Majlis” based on recommendations of international observers participated on previous elections; changes to the legislation on local authorities; continuation of reforms in the sphere of strengthening of independence of executive power from legislative power; adopting national laws on ombudsman and fighting against corruption in one year; and a  national program on fighting against corruption in 2 years.

The fourth group covered issues on providing human rights and fundamental freedoms and stated the following obligations of Azerbaijan: to sign a treaty that will provide meetings of prisoners with International Red Cross and Red Crescent Committee; to consider the cases and liberation of people who were recognized as political prisoners by human rights protection organizations; to prosecute representatives of law-enforcement authorities for violation of human rights, including violation of principles against torture, during execution of their responsibilities; to ensure the freedom of speech,  and independence of media and journalists, to reform national television channel to public channel controlled by independent Executive Council; to pass the law about national minorities in 3 years.

In the fifth group, it was recommended to cooperate closely with the Monitoring Committee of PACE in order to implement the monitoring of execution of obligations and responsibilities of the Republic of Azerbaijan as a member state.

 

Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe (continuation)

After becoming a member state of the Council of Europe, our country joined 55 conventions and 8 partial agreements of the Council of Europe.

According to the obligations of Azerbaijan as the Council of Europe member state, on 28th December of 2001 the constitutional law “On Commissioner on Human Rights (Ombudsman)” was adopted and the Institution of Commissioner on Human Rights (Ombudsman) was established.

On 20th November 2000, according to the decision adopted on the 730th meeting of representatives of Committee of Ministers, the Monitoring group (“AGO” group) under the chairmanship of the Permanent Representative of Italy, and Austria, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Romania, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Germany as members was established to observe the implementation of the obligations of Azerbaijan as a member state. In its activity period, the group visited Azerbaijan several times and prepared appropriate reports. 

On 8th December, 2010, on the next Assembly of Committee of Representatives of the Council of Europe, the activity of the “AGO” Monitoring Group was discussed and taking into consideration the achievements of Azerbaijan in the sphere of protection of human rights and democratization, “AGO” group was abolished and our country passed to simpler monitoring of the Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM). According to the decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe the abolition of the “AGO” group and transition of other obligations of Azerbaijan and Armenia, including the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to GR-DEM was confirmed.

With this aim, the group of representatives of GR-DEM constantly visits our country. The last two of them were on 7-10 April of 2015 and 15-16 March of 2017. In the frame of these visits, the group met in several governmental institutions. As a result of them, GR-DEM prepared reports about the execution of obligations of Azerbaijan as the Council of Europe member state and presented them to the Committee of Representatives of the Council of Europe.

The next visit of the GR-DEM delegation took place on May 6-7, 2019, followed by a further monitoring report on Azerbaijan by GR-DEM.

 

The Chairmanship of Azerbaijan to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

On the 124th session of the Committee of Ministers, held on 6th May, 2014 in Vienna, the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers passed from Austria to Azerbaijan. So, for the first time after becoming a member of the Council of Europe in 2001, the chairmanship period of Azerbaijan to the Committee of Ministers began. At the session, Azerbaijan was represented by a delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs – Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov. During his speech at the session, the Minister Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov gave information on the priorities of Azerbaijan during 6 months chairmanship period, listed below:

  1. To strengthen the rule of law by improving cooperation in the fight against corruption, including the falsification of sports games;
  2. To strengthen different by their culture societies, based on mutual respect and understanding;
  3. Ensuring social unity and sustainability: more careful protection of rights of vulnerable groups;
  4. Encouraging youth education in the sphere of human rights and democratic citizenship and the formation of the responsible and educated young generation and ensuring their opportunities to protect their rights.

 

Council of Europe – Azerbaijan Action Plan

In 2014, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland and the chairman of PACE Anne Brasseur visited Azerbaijan, were received by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev and the chairman of Milli Majlis Mr. Ogtay Asadov, and met other government officials.

During this visit, the Action Plan (AP) for 2014-2016, which became a fundamental framework for future cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe, was presented. Afterward, the execution of the Plan was postponed till 2017.

Numerous projects and events were implemented in the framework of the AP, which is an important instrument in relations between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan. The AP was appreciated by both parties, and consequently, it was decided to continue cooperation in this framework and to negotiate to conduct next action plan. As a result of the consultation of Azerbaijan with the Secretariat of the Council of Europe, on the 17th October of 2018, the project of the next AP, which covered the years of 2019-2021, was approved by the Committee of Representatives of the Council of Europe.

In May-July 2019, the first projects were launched in accordance with the new Action Plan. These projects will cover the efficiency of the justice system, penitentiary reform, and the fight against money laundering. This document, which plays the role of a framework for mutual cooperation, created an opportunity to benefit with technical assistance and expertise in numerous spheres that contributed to support of the continuing reforms taking place in our country in various spheres.

 

Partnership for Good Governance

In April 2014, the implementation of partnership projects with the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) in the areas of human rights, democracy and rule of law was agreed between the European Union and Council of Europe. The EU is the main donor and the Council of Europe acts as an executive organization of the projects in the initiative which is initially called a Programmatic Cooperation Framework and has been called a Partnership for Good Governance (PGG) since 2017. A number of bilateral and regional projects have been implemented within the framework of the mentioned initiative. The PGG Phase I came to the end in 2017 and at the end of the mentioned year, this initiative is expected to be extended one more year by means of the rest budget.

In the PGG Phase I, a number of regional and bilateral projects related to reforms in the judicial system, combating corruption, cybercrime, awareness-raising activities on human rights, local administration, freedom of expression and media, reforms on penitential service, gender equality, etc. have been organized.

Overall, in addition to 14 regional projects, a total of EUR 4.9 million worth of bilateral projects were also implemented for Azerbaijan:

  1. The implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the precedent law of the European Court of Human Rights in Azerbaijan;
  2. Improvements in the efficiency and quality of the judicial services in the Republic of Azerbaijan;
  3. Strengthening the capacity to fight and prevent corruption in Azerbaijan;
  4. Freedom of expression and media.

PGG Phase II (2019-2021) has been already started. Thus there are 2 national and 4 regional projects implemented in the framework of Phase II. They are the following:

 

National projects:

  1. Strengthening Anti-Money Laundering in Azerbaijan;
  2. Strengthening the efficiency and quality of the judicial system in Azerbaijan.

 

Regional projects:

  1. Strengthening measures to prevent and combat economic crime;
  2. Strengthening the access to justice through non-judiciary redress mechanisms for victims of discrimination, hate crime and hate speech in Eastern Partnership countries;
  3. Women’s Access to Justice: delivering on the Istanbul Convention and the European gender equality standards;
  4. Strengthening the progression of lawyers in with European standards.

 

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is on the diary of the Council of Europe

On 10 November 1994, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Resolution 1047 (1994) in which they expressed satisfaction with the cease-fire agreement between the border of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In the spring part-session of the PACE held on 22 April 1997, Resolution 1119 (1997) was adopted, which reflected South Caucasian conflicts related principles in terms of border security, implementation of security by means of international peacekeeping forces, large authority status for Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh after negotiations among related parties, right to return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

For the first time, on 24-27 April, 2001, the delegation of Azerbaijan to the PACE headed by H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev participated in the plenary session of the PACE as a full member. As a result of H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev’s constant efforts, the consequences of Armenia’s aggressive policy were successfully brought to the attention of PACE members. Thus, during the session, the written statement titled “The recognition of genocide committed by Armenians to the Azerbaijani population” signed by 29 representatives of 9 countries represented in 5 political groups of the PACE, and a motion for the recommendation titled “The prisoners and hostages of war kept in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh” signed by 20 representatives of 14 countries was disseminated as the official documents of the PACE. The document condemned the massacre of Khojaly inhabitants by Armenians, the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory by Armenia, the fact of holding 783 Azerbaijanis, including children, women and elderly as hostages in Armenia and occupied territories of Azerbaijan and other important issues.

Furthermore, the documents titled “The destruction of historical monuments in Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied territories”, “Right to education of children that were refugees and IDP’s”, “The condition of IDP’s in Azerbaijan” were delivered in the PACE.

As a result of continued efforts of Azerbaijan, on 25 January 2005, at its winter part-session, the PACE adopted Resolution 1416 (2005) and Recommendation 1690 (2005) on the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with OSCE Minsk Conference. The Parliamentary Assembly has mentioned that the occupation of foreign territory by a member state is a serious violation of obligations taken as a member state of the Council of Europe, and has again confirmed that the displaced people from the conflict area have the right to return back their homes safe and with honor. The Parliamentary Assembly has also mentioned the Resolutions of the Security Council of the UN 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993), 884 (1993) and making their enforcement through avoiding military operations of parties and withdrawing armed forces from the occupied territories, the Assembly has called the Bureau of the PACE to organize an ad-hoc committee, where the heads of national representatives of the countries of the OSCE Minsk Conference would also be involved in.

As the next phase of this process, on 9 January 2006, at its meeting of the ad-hoc committee of the PACE on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict held in Strasbourg the facts about the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, considering regime in Nagorno-Karabakh separatist, existence of nearly a million people expelled from their territories were mentioned in the report prepared by Mr. Lord Russell Johnston.

However, in fact, the above-mentioned ad-hoc committee created in accordance with Resolution 1416 of the PACE suspended its work as a result of the non-constructive position of the Armenian delegation.

Despite this, Azerbaijan continued its work on keeping the aggressive policy of Armenia towards Azerbaijan on the agenda of the organization.

On 25 June 2008, at its summer part-session a report and resolution prepared by co-rapporteurs Andres Herkel and Evguenia Jivkovatitled “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan” was discussed and Resolution 1614 (2008) was adopted with relevant amendments. The key point of the Resolution was that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict-related parts were suitable for our national interests. In the Resolution emphasizing that the sustainable democratic development will continue to be very difficult until the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is restored on the basis of the Resolution titled “The situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan” adopted by the UN General Assembly on March 14 2008, which emphasizes  its respect for territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan and demands the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

On 28 January 2011, The Bureau of the PACE decided to restore its activities of the ad-hoc committee on Nagorno-Karabakh. In spite of the Armenian delegation’s contest, the PACE Bureau agreed on restoring activities of the Committee unanimously (except Armenian delegate). Spanish parliamentarian from Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party of the PACE Jordi Xucla I Costa was elected the chairman of the committee. PACE Bureau’s another decision dated 7 February 2011 defined members of the Committee. The new composition of the ad-hoc Committee included besides the Chairman, the Chairpersons of the national delegations, representatives of the opposition and both countries, as well as PACE Monitoring Committee rapporteurs on two countries.

On 26 January 2016, at its plenary session of the PACE two reports about occupied territories of Azerbaijan were discussed:

  1. “The increase of the violent actions in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” prepared by British parliamentarian Mr. Robert Valder from the Committee on Political Issues of the PACE.
  2. “Deliberate deprivation of inhabitants in frontier regions of drinking water” prepared by Bosnia and Herzegovinian parliamentarian Mr. Militsa Markovich from the Committee on Social Issues of the PACE.

Armenian side refused these reports to be adopted.

Despite protests by the Armenian side at first, both two rapporteurs stated that these documents were adopted at the Committees. In his speech, Mr. M. Markovich said that in 2014, while preparing this report, he wanted to undertake a visit to Armenia and the territory, where the Sarsang water reservoir is located, however, Armenian side prevented his visit from happening: “By bringing excuses to me, they refused to receive me. In addition, they wanted me to call on officials of Nagorno-Karabakh Government. Meaning that they did not want me to enter the mentioned territories at all”.

Following discussions, reports were put to a vote. The first document was not adopted by a recorded vote of 66 in favor of 70 against and 45 abstentions. However, the second one was adopted by a recorded vote of 98 in favor of 71 against and 40 abstentions.

The main idea of the report titled “Deliberate deprivation of inhabitants in frontier regions of drinking water” is that the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, including Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts by the Republic of Armenia is unambiguously condemned by the Assembly. The report also reflected the results of conducted surveys and mentioned the fact of holding the Sarsang water reservoir under occupation, which caused nearly 400 thousand people not to be able to live, farms to be destroyed, social situations to dramatically worsen and people to suffer from the shortage of water.

 

Azerbaijan and PACE

Azerbaijan is presented in the PACE by a delegation of twelve parliamentarians, six of them being representatives and the other six being substitutes. The head of our delegation is Samad Seyidov, Member of Parliament, Chairman of the Committee on International Relations and Inter-Parliamentary Relations.

The PACE Monitoring Committee co-rapporteurs (Currently Stefan Schennach (Austria) and Cezar Florin Preda (Romania)) regularly visit Azerbaijan in order to review the progress of implementation of the commitments taken by Azerbaijan. During these visits, the co-rapporteurs hold meetings in different state bodies and exchange views on the commitments taken by Azerbaijan before the Council of Europe.

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