Azerbaijan: Human rights in the spotlight

Vugar Bairamov, Center for Economic and Social Development (Azerbaijan, Baku)

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Human right issues yet again ruled the agenda in Azerbaijan. On the one hand, the amendments to the domestic legislation restricted the options for the civil activists to have legal representatives in the courts. On the other hand, the issue arouse new tensions in the relations with the European partners.

Domestic Policy. Less advocates for activists

The Parliamentary Committee on the Legal Policy and State Building proposed the amendments to the Civil Procedure Code, the Administrative Procedure Code and the Law on Advocacy. The proposed changes are related to the abolition of the legal representative offices in the courts. The individuals with no Bar membership or license for the advocate activity will not be able to protect the people rights in the courts. The changes are understood as “adopting the European practice” by the lawmakers. Although in the recent years, the licenses of many advocates, who protected the rights of the political and civil society activists, were cancelled. According to the former legislation, they still could continue to practice. The new legislation eliminates this possibility.

Economy. BakuTbilisiKars railway launched

The long-awaited launch of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars  railway has happened.

This railway will create the additional freight and passenger link between Europe and China and boost the regional cooperation between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. The railway is attractive for the international actors because it creates a Europe – China link, avoiding Iran and Russia. The event was attended by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Prime Ministers of Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.

The economy started stabilization process

The oil prices started normalizing and some further rise is expected. Despite the conventional wisdom of the continuation of the low oil price era, the independent assessment of the oil supplies presents a different picture. For its new annual budget in 2018, Azerbaijan also raised expectations regarding the oil prices. The average annual oil price is forecasted at $45.

The increase and stabilization of the oil prices  helped the government of Azerbaijan to stabilize the economy. Due to the expected oil revenue for 2018, it increased the spending from the oil fund and intends to start some new projects.

Foreign Policy. Azerbaijan – Council of Europe relations

On 4, October, 28 Ambassadors of the EU countries and several high-ranking EEAS officials visited Azerbaijan. The Political and Security Committee (PSC) Delegation had meetings with the President Aliyev, the Head of Parliament Ogtay Asadov and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov. This is another positive step toward the EU-Azerbaijan reapproachment since the President Aliyev’s official visit to Brussels in February, 2017.

Although despite the positive trends in the EU-Azerbaijani relations, the past month witnessed many unexpected events in the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan.

Following the revelations of the alleged corrupt relations between the Azerbaijani and the Council of Europe officials, and European parliament officials calling for an investigation into the case, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe formally notified the government of Azerbaijan of its intention to launch the legal action related to the implementation of the Ilgar Mammadov vs. Azerbaijan  judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.

BakuTbilisiKars railway will create the additional freight and passenger link between Europe and China and boost the regional cooperation between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey

In May, 2014 the court ruled that the head of the oppositional ReAL movement Mr. Ilgar Mammadov’s arrest was in violation of the several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. So far, the government of Azerbaijan did not release him, which triggered some additional steps by the Committee of Ministers. By 29, November, 2017 the government of Azerbaijan has to present its written vision on the issue. In case of the refusal to implementat the European Human Rights Court decision by the government of Azerbaijan, the Committee of Ministers will launch a procedure sending a request to the European Court of Human Rights on whether the non-implementation of its ruling is a further violation of the convention, or not.

New presidential meeting

On 16, October the Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had a meeting in Geneva ( Following the meeting, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries and the co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group expressed their agreement on the intensified negotiations and the de-escalating of the military tension at the contact line between the Armenian and the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

These event comes after a pause of the meetings between the presidents. They had just two meetings in the post-April 2016 war. This one is a chance for both sides to reconnect once more and find new opportunities for peace.