STRASBOURG, France, March 8, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
In an open letter to all members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Azerbaijani MP and PACE member Elkhan Suleymanov, the President of the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA), called for wide-ranging reforms given the current "dark atmosphere" at the institution.
Suleymanov said he felt compelled to write his letter following revelations by the Brussels think tank The European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC), which on Monday published a comprehensive report (http://www.esisc.org/publications/analyses/11791 ) uncovering an "Armenian Connection" network inside PACE that "has led a merciless propaganda campaign against Azerbaijan to benefit Armenia".
"My country and I were at the receiving end of these attacks and anti-Azerbaijani collusion," Suleymanov said, detailing in his letter how a "patchwork of fact and fantasy spread well-prepared slander all over the international media, unfortunately causing irreparable damage to PACE."
In particular, he pointed out a Milan court decision, which decided not to bring any charges against Italian politician Luca Volonté, who had been investigated for allegedly accepting bribes by Azerbaijan. "All PACE members without exception should respect the Rule of Law, which includes respecting the clear decision by the Milan court, which dropped all charges of corruption," Suleymanov demanded.
He also noted the Legal Affairs Report on Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan by special rapporteur Christoph Strässer, which was rejected in January 2013 by a sizable majority of 125 against and 79 in favour. "Recently launched false corruption allegations claim that voting was influenced by so-called bribery," Suleymanov said, adding that this is "totally ridiculous", given the information that can still be reviewed in the minutes from all political group meetings.
"All members should show more respect to each other's political positions and should respect the free vote of each colleague, without pretending that one position is morally more superior than another," Suleymanov maintained. "We shouldn't always look back. Questioning voting results and voting behaviour by MPs is equal to questioning PACE itself. Our Assembly will get stronger through genuine cooperation, not through organised distrust."
Suleymanov further called for clarity on lobbying, if it should be prohibited or not, and whether donations to PACE-related NGOs should be allowed, which could compromise MPs cooperating with those NGOs. "PACE should not allow double-standards," his letter stated.
Suleymanov concluded by noting that "deliberately spreading false rumours of corruption is strongly undermining global credibility of the Assembly towards the outside world and new rules should urgently be adopted."