Elkhan Suleymanov addresses Thorbjorn Jagland, Jean-Claude Mignon, PACE members

Thu 11 Oct 2012 09:16 GMT | 13:16 Local Time

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Elkhan Suleymanov addresses Thorbjorn Jagland, Jean-Claude Mignon and PACE members.

Member of Azerbaijani Delegation to PACE Euronest, MP of Azerbaijani Parliament Elkhan Suleymanov has sent a letter to Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Jean-Claude Mignon President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to the members of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, APA reports quoting Suleymanov’s Office.

The letter reads:

“Allow me to draw your attention to my worrying concerns in the wake of the discussions of the report prepared by our German colleague Mr. Straesser on the “Definition of political prisoners” that was passed during the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on October 3rd, 2012.

Let me stress first and foremost that the facts I’m going to recall in my letter were provoked by two amendments tabled in accordance with the rules and aimed at refining data of Paragraph 2 of the report, and, more importantly, at specifying the subject of the report in Paragraph 3, stressing that the European Court for Human Rights is the only authority to assess individual violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, exactly as stipulated in the European Convention for Human Rights.

First, immediately after both amendments were tabled, Mr. Drcemczewski, Head of the Secretariat of the Legal Affairs Committee and his deputy Mr. Schirmer, both officially “neutral” civil servants, were approaching Members of the Assembly in the corridors and the buffet area, influencing them in different ways, and lobbying discretely but very actively to vote against both amendments and in favor of the report. They were using different methods, like distributing various hurriedly prepared addresses from organizations such as Human Right Watch, Amnesty International and European Stability Initiative. Moreover, at the beginning of the Legal Affairs Committee meeting on October 3rd at 14:00, it was officially stated that even if the Committee adopts the second amendment, the PACE chairman is considering to veto it. It is clear that suggesting such a veto at that moment is politically not correct and obviously only aimed at influencing the members in a negative way just before the vote.

Beyond doubt, such practice is strongly regrettable. Nevertheless, that amendment was put to the vote and adopted by 30 votes in favor after all, with 28 against.

It is even more regrettable that the results of the vote in respect of that 2nd amendment were announced as only 30 votes in favor, whereas several Committee members independently testified to have counted 34. In my opinion the Committee Secretariat forged the results in favor of the rapporteur, as this was also the case in the Committee meeting on 26th June 2012, where several colleagues also informed me independently about a similar miscalculation. However, in contrast to the June 26th meeting of the Committee, this time the difference between the votes in favor and against was too big, so the final result – even if “miscalculated” – could not reverse the final outcome. Only an improved voting procedure can prevent such future “miscalculations”.

Second, in blatant disregard of their colleague’s freedom of expression, the leader of the Socialists, Swiss MP Mr. Andreas Gross, and the leadership of Liberals, forced them to vote in favor of Straesser’s report and compiled a nominative list during the meetings of political groups on October 3rd. Thus, Mr. Gross incited the members to vote against the amendments via an “indicative” vote, which has never happened over the previous five years, intimidating them with expulsion if they would ever vote in favor of the amendments. Via this supposed “democratic” Gross-manner, he thus succeeded to compile the list of 46 votes from the Socialist Group.

Third, the leadership and members of the German delegation evidently threatened their colleagues from other European countries, which face economic and financial difficulties in their home-countries at the moment, by stating that if they vote in favor of the amendments, Germany would seriously consider to impede any support with regard to resolving the economic and financial difficulties in those countries. Thus, the MPs from those – mainly some European - countries were forced to vote in favor of Straesser’s report, pressured by political blackmail and even personal threats.

Fourth, the plenary meeting appeared to be more of an organized demonstration of biased and hostile positions against Azerbaijan, rather than a planned debate on drafting a legal definition of political prisoners. Thus, the representatives of socialists and liberals, appointed by the leadership of their political groups in advance, only showed a strongly biased position against Azerbaijan instead of grounding their speeches in favor or against the proposed criteria on political prisoners mentioned in the report. Those few MPs courageously defending the two amendments were subject to immediate and public attacks and harsh insults.

Furthermore, Mr. Straesser, Ms. Schuster and other socialists and liberals addressed the participants of the plenary meeting and expressed their concerns – at times hysterically – that if the amendment to Paragraph 3 of the report was adopted, the follow-up report against Azerbaijan could not be adopted in January. Mr. Straesser said, “Get me right, if the amendment is adopted, my report against Azerbaijan will not be adopted in January.” This is a very strange justification in a general discussion, which is supposedly non-country specific.

Indeed, though the overall essence of the debate over the report on the “Definition of political prisoners” was to find a common solution to legal criteria applicable to all member states on the definition of political prisoners, all the activity of anti-Azerbaijani lobby on this matter consisted of non-relevant and groundless accusations against Azerbaijan as well as insults addressed to the few PACE members who only wanted to speak in favor of a consensus proposal, being in full compliance with the European Convention.

Fifth, blackmails and threats by Mr. Straesser, Ms. Schuster and the leaders of socialists and liberals eventually affected MPs’ positions. But even despite such political shenanigans, the vote resulted in equal 89/89 votes. This voting undermined the PACE’s credibility in this matter and showed a deep split throughout the whole Assembly. Some older MPs said that they have never before seen in their career such an equality of votes – and deep split! – in the Council of Europe. Thus, just due to lacunae in the rules of procedure, the Straesser report was considered adopted from a legal point of view. Nevertheless, given the controversy and division over the adoption of the definition on political prisoners with 89/89 votes, the result will be remembered as a disgrace from a political, ethical and moral standpoint in the Council of Europe’s history.

Sixth, with the adoption of criteria based on Nergaard principles, which were applied during the civil war in Namibia, Southern Africa, between 1989 and 1990 and re-proposed in Straesser’s report, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe opened a sad page in the history of CoE. The adoption of these criteria equates the situation in the Council of Europe with the Namibia experience of 20 years ago. This comparison thus damaged the image of Council of Europe, an institution renowned as a leader in benchmarking such issues as well as for its role as a guarantor of democracy and the rule of law. The negative effects of this report will inevitably appear in the near future.

Seventh, according to the article published on October 5, 2012 on the leading Azerbaijani web portal www.contact.az, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe used some regretful expressions when answering the question of a journalist during a press conference organized by him on October 4th, including “Azerbaijani caviar is a threat to the independence of PACE”, “If it is true that the members of Azerbaijani Delegation to PACE bribed their colleagues with black caviar, then it is absolutely unacceptable”. Later this news was also published by the opposition “ Yeni Musavat” newspaper and, of course, by the ARMENPRESS news agency of Armenia.

I think putting forward such superficial and baseless accusations against Azerbaijan is unacceptable, and the utterance of these perceptions against any member state by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe is regrettable. It further compounds doubts about his neutrality as the highest authority of the Council of Europe.

Finally, several questions arise around discussions and events that happened after the final adoption of the report on the “Definition of political prisoner” with the inevitable voting result during the autumn session of PACE :

Why was the discussion on the criteria that should concern all member states only directed at Azerbaijan, in a one-sided, dramatic and tendentious way? Why were so many speeches given attacking Azerbaijan with groundless accusations?

And why is Azerbaijan always facing such baseless accusations, political blackmail and double standard treatment, while it considers cooperation with Europe in various fields as its first priority and plays a strategic role on energy security of Europe?

What are the real reasons of the complicity beyond moral norms by the Legal Affairs Committee’s Secretaries Mr. Drzemczewski and Mr. Schirmer, and the political blackmail by Mr. Straesser and Mrs. Schuster and the leaders of socialists and liberals? Was it because they were aware that the probability of the adoption of the Straesser report was very low?

But even if, is that a reason for them to distribute hurriedly some orchestrated statements and addresses, such as those of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International? Why does the European Stability Initiative always come to the agenda at the last moment – as it also happened on June 26 and October 3 this year during the meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee – with seemingly the only goal to discredit Azerbaijan as a member state, without any ground or proof, right before a vote?

Why have baseless claims against Azerbaijan not been stopped, even after such a historically controversial decision was taken in the CoE as a result of the voting, which ended in a draw of 89/89? For example, in recent interviews some self-declared “correct” politicians, such as Mrs. Viola von Cramon from Germany, looked down on the so-called “Azeri lobby” in PACE. Let me remind you first of all that Mrs. von Cramon is unconditionally and publicly supportive of Armenia, which she frequently visits. She is one of their most well-known and effective lobbyists. Meanwhile, our parliamentary assistants and legal advisors, who clarified to some members of the Assembly the precise legal aspects of the current discussion, are doing so only with rational arguments and have the right to do that. They are not subject to strict neutrality, unlike the PACE’s civil servants, which sadly, often do not act in compliance with their neutrality obligation.

To what extent is it fair to apply criteria pushed through on October 3rd to the report passed already on June 26th and agreed for consideration at the next session in January 2013?

Undoubtedly, all these questions can’t be explained, can they ?

The main reason of anti-Azerbaijan lobbying activities prepared with the complicity of the Legal Affairs Committee Secretaries Mr. Drzemczewski and Mr. Schirmer, MPs Mr. Straesser and Ms. Schuster, leaders of the Socialists and Liberals, is that they knew in advance that there was a deep split in the Committee and PACE and that there was little possibility of adoption of Mr. Straesser’s report. Therefore, they fabricated purely anti-Azerbaijan statements on behalf of the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and European Stability Initiative, which are not relevant to the issue, and diligently distributed them to Committee members. The main purpose is to discredit Azerbaijan in time, in order to achieve blind and unconditional support for the adoption of Mr. Straesser’s specific report on Azerbaijan during PACE’s winter session. For them the democratic debate has to be silenced in advance.

On the other hand, though the Legal Affairs Committee Secretariat and some political groups’ leaders conducting anti-Azerbaijan lobbying activities accept that the decision on this issue has legal force, they also understand that the decision ended in a draw of 89/89, which is an extremely fragile decision from a political, moral and ethical point of view. Therefore, in order to deviate public opinion from awareness of this serious split within PACE, they are loudly putting forward baseless and biased accusations against members of the Azerbaijani delegation, even insulting the few MP’s who expressed their objective opinion.

It should also be noted that Azerbaijan is a member country of the Council of Europe which has a 95% Muslim population, second to Turkey. In my opinion, this is the main reason of the repeated harsh and one-sided positions against Azerbaijan, even when my country is one of the most secular states of the Council of Europe.

As you know, Azerbaijan is not a big country. Undoubtedly, when I found courage to express the above mentioned facts, I realized that anti-Azerbaijan lobbysts and propagandists could attack me and my country even more, in various ways. It remains a mystery to me why they get so angry at such a small secular country, which only stands for its rights and justice.

In a summary, we are defenseless against the will of the anti-Azerbaijan lobby that was well organized by leaders of some political groups, with active complicity of some PACE secretariat’s staff members, as we experienced during the autumn session in Strasbourg. It is clear that this lobby is now definitely silencing the large number of MPs who wanted to argue sincerely against any bad legal and arbitrary practices, and against double standards. But even when they are numerous and originating from many member-states, these fair MP’s have no other choice now than to surrender before the open and shameless threats and mean accusations.

Many observers noticed how democracy died in Strasbourg last week.

All the above mentioned facts indicate the current unfortunate and miserable situation in the Parliamentary Assembly. I hope that you, with your authority, can come up with some very urgent initiatives to address these concerns, which undermine the Council of Europe’s international image and credibility.

I look forward to know your position on the various issues raised above, and to be informed on possible measures that you will take in order to prevent the further unjust and biased treatment of our country”.

Copies of the letter have been delivered to the president and members of the European Parliament, OSCE Chairman, OSCE Secretary-General and the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as well as to the national legislative organs of European Countries.




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