Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights confirms Strässer’s mandate to investigate the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
During the session on 24 January 2011, Christoph Strässer, Rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan and the definition of political prisoners, raised the issue of the failure of the Azerbaijani authorities to cooperate in organizing his fact-finding visit to Azerbaijan, which has been authorized by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The request to present an information paper recalling the definition of political prisoners, as accepted by all concerned, in advance of the visit was also fulfilled. The definition of political prisoners, as developed by independent experts appointed by the Secretary General at the time of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s accession to the Council of Europe and reaffirmed in June 2010 following a hearing with eminent experts on the definition of political prisoners, has not only been recognised by the Committee. It has also been accepted by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and, not least, by Azerbaijan itself.
During the session on 8 March 2011, the Committee voted to note the information paper and reaffirmed Christoph Strässer’s mandates and the decision of June 2010 to merge the two mandates. The Committee Chair recalled that one particular component of the mandate is to investigate the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are free to request new reporting activities for other countries as well.
In his capacity as Rapporteur, Christoph Strässer offers the hand of friendship to his Azerbaijani colleagues and invites them to engage in cooperation on this basis and to abandon the evasiveness and stalling witnessed to date, so that an objective and balanced report can be submitted to the Committee. However, if cooperation is blocked and preparations for the visit cannot progress, sanctions can no longer be ruled out.
The objective of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law. This includes providing information about possible abuses in Member States. Every Member State is required to cooperate constructively with the Council of Europe’s rapporteurs.