A letter on political prisoners addressed to PACE
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!
When Azerbaijan and Armenia became members of the Council of Europe in January of 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly of this organization noted the availability of problems of political repressions and political prisoners (Opinion 221, iv, par. b,c and Opinion 222, iv, par. b respectively). Following Opinions 221 and 222, the Secretary General of CE appointed the group of experts who had examined 25 “pilot cases” on these countries and worked out criteria of “political prisoner”.
The CE experts have been operating in Azerbaijan on basis of these criteria and a principle worked out by CE’s general secretary W. Schwimmer as early as 2001: “One political prisoner is one too many. This problem should not exist in a Council of Europe member State”. PACE appointed special reporters on political prisoners in Azerbaijan (George Clerfayt, then Malcolm Bruce) in order to render assistance Azerbaijani Government and provide information to CE. As a result of the activity of these reporters, hundreds political prisoners were released.
Unfortunately, in autumn 2005, PACE decided not to assign new special reporter and this affected the dynamics of release of political prisoners. Moreover, new political prisoners emerged after the Parliament elections in Azerbaijan in 2005. Last years, the journalists also were imprisoned under the defamation accusations. According to the list compiled by the Federation of Human Rights Organizations of Azerbaijan, at least 55 political prisoners are detained. Among them, 29 people remained from the time of Azerbaijan’s accession into the Council of Europe.
Thus, the problem of political prisoners remains actual even today. But nowadays this problem gains a dramatic feature and becomes significant for other countries of South Caucasus. Political prisoners emerged in Armenia and Georgia due to the falsification of elections. The number of political prisoners in Georgia is at least 26 people whereas in Armenia this number differs 138 to 192 (this figure is constantly changing as courts issue their verdicts on the charges brought and many are given suspended sentences). The preliminary analyses of their criminal cases held by human rights activists shows that these people correspond to political prisoners’ criteria given in the report SG/Inf (2001)34 as of October 24th 2001. However, unlike Azerbaijan, this problem is not considered as emerging in other countries of South Caucasus. In this regard, representatives of some of PACE members claim on existence of “double standards” of CE toward different countries of South Caucasus.
From our point of view, the criteria and approaches which were developed for Azerbaijan in 2001-2007 have to be applied toward political processes and prisoners in Armenia and Georgia. Therefore, we urge you to initiate the motion for appointment of special rapporteur on political prisoners in South Caucasus during the June session of PACE or special rapporteurs for all countries of the region. This problem would be in line with the agenda of the June session which will discuss the situation in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In our opinion, the appointment of such reporter will help the Assembly to understand better the situation as well as promote PACE’s cooperation with the governments of South Caucasian countries for the solution of the problem.
From Federation of Human Rights Organization:
Leyla Yunus, Institute of Peace and Democracy
Eldar Zeynalov, Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
Mikael Danielyan, Helsinki Association of Armenia
Anahit Bayandur, Armenian National Committee of Helsinki Citizens Assembly
Ucha Nunuashvili, Human Rights Center of Georgia (HRDIC)
Emil Adelkhanov (Emmanuil Steinberg), Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development