Azerbaijan Defends its Commitment to Human Rights

Jun 21, 2013, 11:52 ET from Azerbaijan Monitor

BRUSSELS, June 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Azerbaijan continued its drive to greater European integration, as President Ilham Aliyev met Friday with European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for talks focusing on energy security and the Armenian-occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

While Aliyev presented Azerbaijan's hopes for the future and today, the country also pushed back on recent allegations of human rights abuses.

Adressing a letter sent by Human Rights Watch to Barroso on the eve of Aliyev's trip, Elkhan Suleymanov, Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, accused the rights group of neglecting its core mission and distorting Azerbaijan's record.

Human Rights Watch "does not take into account that Azerbaijan is a full member of many influential international organizations, that it has already established mutually beneficial cooperation on the bilateral and multilateral basis with the states of the world and finally, that Azerbaijan is an independent republic which develops cooperation and partnership relations with the European Union," Suleymanov said.

The letter accused Azerbaijan of unspecified violations and encouraged Barroso to "press" Azerbaijan for policy changes.

Suleymanov pointed out that the letter offered no factual bases for its assertions. Instead, Azerbaijan "has announced the establishment of civil, democratic, legal state and civil society, as well as integration into Europe as priority directions of its internal and foreign policy."

Azerbaijan, he said, has dedicated itself to matching Europe's human rights standards. "Azerbaijan is committed to the establishment of universal values, such as democracy, human rights and freedoms, cooperates with specialized institutions of Europe in this direction, constantly improves its legislation, and carries out relevant reforms."

Suleymanov also defended Azerbaijan's laws ensuring free speech and assembly on the one hand, and protecting public safety and order on the other, as "an accepted principle in all European countries."

He pointed out that Human Rights Watch has been virtually silent on Armenia's ethnic cleansing, and subsequent human rights abuses of the Azerbaijanis of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding occupied provinces, suggesting that the organisation was at best applying a double standard where Azerbaijan is concerned.

Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding provinces were seized during Azerbaijan's war with Armenia, followed by the forced expulsion of over one million ethnic Azerbaijanis from the provinces at the war's conclusion. Armenia refuses to end the occupation, described by the United Nations and others as a violation of international law.

SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor