PACE co-rapporteurs issue statement after their visit to Azerbaijan

The co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Azerbaijan by the Parliamentary Assembly of theCouncil of Europe (PACE), Stefan Schennach and Cezar Florin Preda have issued a statement on the outcomes of their visit to Baku from 12 to 14 June 2017. According to the statement, during their visit, the co-rapporteurs discussed respect for human rights in Azerbaijan, APA reports citing PACE website. "Welcoming the liberation of some of the so-called "political prisoners" in 2016 but expressing concern about new arrests in recent months, the co-rapporteurs expressed the hope that more persons would be released during 2017. The co-rapporteurs continued their previous discussions with regard to the justice system in Azerbaijan," says statement.

According to the statement, they welcomed the on-going reform initiated by the President of the Republic's Executive Order on "improvement of operation of penitentiary, humanisation of penal policies and extension of application of alternative sanctions and non-custodial procedural measures of restraint", and they encouraged the authorities to quickly ensure its implementation.

"The co-rapporteurs also expressed the hope that a juvenile justice system would soon be put in place. Discussions also focused on the necessary reform of the restrictive norms governing the operation and funding of NGOs and their implementation so as to allow for the functioning of a vibrant civil society and ensure respect for freedom of association," reads the statement. Co-rapporteurs also discussed freedom of expression and media freedom, the death of Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Galandarov in custody, arrest of Mehman Huseynov, release of Ilgar Mammadov and reiterated the Assembly's call to speed up efforts towards the decriminalisation of defamation. The co-rapporteurs will present a preliminary draft report on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan at the meeting of the Monitoring Committee in September 2017, with a view to presenting the report during the October 2017 part-session.

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