In recent years Azerbaijan Republic has carried-out sweeping reforms in different spheres of social life. The Constitution adopted on November 12, 1995 set the beginning of a new era of state-building which bases on the maintenance of basic human rights. The Constitution constitutes the core of the maintenance of human rights in the country. The third chapter of the document titled “Basic rights and liberties of a person and citizen” is composed of 48 articles which encompasses broad spectrum of human rights.
Steps taken with the purpose of adapting the legal system of Azerbaijan to International standards envisaged in the European Convention on Human Rights and other international documents hold important place among the reforms in the field of democratization of the country.
The adoption of many different laws/codes of Azerbaijan Republic which are of great importance brought to the strengthening the legislative basis of the Republic.
On February 22, 1998 The President of the Republic issued a decree “On the Measures regarding maintenance of human rights”. With the Presidential order dated to June18, 1998 the State Program regarding the respect for human rights was approved. On the basis of the above mentioned State Program and in accordance with the commitments of Azerbaijan before the Council of Europe (CoE) a new for Azerbaijan institution – Ombudsman was established in 2002.
Today in Azerbaijan more than 600 information agencies, news-papers have officially been registered by the state registry. Most of the political parties print their own news-papers.
Lots of work done in the field of penitentiary reforms. In line with the commitments taken before the CoE Azerbaijan Government signed an agreement with the International Red Cross (ICRC), according to which ICRC representatives are allowed to visit prisons.
In Azerbaijan Republic moratorium was declared on the execution of death penalty, on February 10, 1998 it was completely abolished.
With the Presidential order in Azerbaijan, firstly in the whole former USSR region, detention buildings that had been subordinate to Ministry of Interior were subjected to the Ministry of Justice.
The Law on Courts and Judges envisage principles of fair trial like equality of all before the Law, fair and without obstacles judgment by independent courts, presumption of innocence etc.
Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic state and ethnic groups living here practice different faiths. The rights of all religious minorities are respected in the country. Besides Moslem mosques, different churches (Armenian apostle church, catholic, orthodox churches etc.) function in Azerbaijan. According to Article 18 of the Constitution Religion is separated from state.
One of the main steps with regard to maintaining respect for human rights was the adoption of National Action Plan on the Protection of Human Rights. Developed on the proposals by different government bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Action Plan was approved by the President Ilham Aliyev’s order number 1889, dated to December 28, 2006.
In addition to joining different international documents in this field, Azerbaijan Republic also cooperates with international organizations for this purpose. Different organizations of UN, OSCE, CoE, and European Union are of special importance among them.
Azerbaijan effectively cooperates with UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in the field of protection and promotion of human rights. This cooperation is based on the technical cooperation document titled “Strengthening Capacities and Infrastructure for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Azerbaijan” which had initially been signed in 1998, and which envisaged cooperation till 2000. Taking the importance of the issue into account aiming to keep on the implementation of the programmes in December 2001 a new Project document was signed between Azerbaijan government and the Office. Within the framework of the project different events (seminars, trainings, exchange of experience, publication of materials etc.) in the field of human rights were organized. The Ministry of Justice was the coordinator on behalf of Azerbaijani Government.
Azerbaijan was selected a member of UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and that was one of the main achievements of Azerbaijan in this field in 2006. According to the UN General Assembly resolution A/60/L.48 UN General Assembly’s subsidiary body – HRC was established and that substituted Human Rights Commission. The number of the members of HRC is 47. Despite the high level of compatibility Azerbaijan was among the 47 countries that became the first members of HRC.
HRC started functioning on June 19, 2006. In its first session the deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Mr. Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev took part and stated the position of Azerbaijan with regard to future activities of HRC.
Different international organizations with their branches, or information offices operate in Azerbaijan. Among them CoE through its Information Office and OSCE through its Baku Office are of great importance.
Azerbaijan attaches great importance to cooperation with the CoE in the fields of stat-building, rule-of-law etc. Azerbaijan has taken commitments before CoE with regard to reforms in judicial system, perfection of advocacy, struggle against corruption etc.
Another organization Azerbaijan is cooperating with in this field is OSCE. On November 26, 1998 Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government of Azerbaijan and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. In the addenda of the MoU close cooperation for the reforms in the fields of human rights is envisaged.
With the support of OSCE/ODIHR and OSCE Baku Office different projects of greater improtance regarding the development of Civil Society, promotion of freedom of speech and thought, gender equality, fighting violence against women, free and fair elections etc. have been implemented. In 2002-2005 in South Caucasus OSCE/ODIHR together with European Commission implemented a 3-year program called “Conflict prevention and capability building in the field of Human Rights”. The program included reform of penitentiaries and trainings for penitentiary staff, trainings for local NGO’s in the field of Human rights, support for NGO’s dealing with fight against human trafficking.
Lots of work done in Azerbaijan in 2007-2008 for the maintenance of Human rights, the implementation of National Action Plan on Human Rights, providing the rule of law, and development of civil society. It does not mean there are no more plans and initiatives envisioned for future and they are to be realized in near future.
Currently, in order to achieve development in respect to rule of law, ensuring effective police-community, police-citizen relationships, and voluntary participation of citizens in that work “Community Police” project as a pilot project is being implemented. Within the framework of this project dozens of police officers have visited developed European countries and got acquainted with their experience in the field. At the same time, IN Baku and in different other regions of Azerbaijan seminars have been held jointly by OSCE and Press Council the topic of which was “Police journalist relations in extreme situations”.
The Government pays particular attention to the development of civil society and considers it to be one of the main pillars of a genuine democracy. A clear manifestation of the said is the Presidential Decree of 27 July 2007 on the endorsement of the Conception of the State Support to non-governmental organizations. The Conception aims at the creation of a stable and effective system of relationship between the public authorities and NGOs, involvement of the NGOs in the addressing of challenges to the development of the state and the society, and at the acceleration of the development of the civil society. As envisaged by the above-mentioned decree, on 13 December 2007 the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan issued a Decree on the establishment of the Council for State Support to NGO’s. On March 2008, meetings aiming to propose the members of the Council for being appointed by the President, were held where the candidacy of 24 people were proposed. On April 18, 2008 the President issued an executive order on the appointment of the members of the Council. In accordance with the Order, 11 members of the Council, all appointed by the President, 8 of them being proposed by the NGO’s and 3 by the public agencies.
On 21 April, 2008 the Council held its first meeting where the chairman, vice-chairman and secretary of it were elected. Thus, the Council, responsible for the implementation of the Concept of State Support to NGO’s in a proper manner is already functioning.
As regards the planned activities and new initiatives in this field, it is worth noting that with the initiative by Ombudsperson’s Apparatus currently it is planned to create the official internet site of National Human Rights Plan. Information on the situation with regard to the Plan’s implementation, periodic reports, the meetings of Working Group etc. is planned to be reflected on the Site.