Baku to continue work on improving human rights status

By Sara Rajabova

International organizations and a number of countries hailed the restoration of a joint group on human rights in Azerbaijan. With restoring the group, the Azerbaijani government has once again showed its will to fully ensuring human rights and fulfilling commitments before the Council of Europe.

The joint group resumed its activity at the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev and Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Jagland described the first meeting of the Working Group on Human Rights as an important step to improve the human rights situation.

He said the purpose of the joint working group, which was also attended by a representative of the Council of Europe, is to revive the dialogue between Azerbaijan's civil society and authorities.

Jagland acknowledged that the meeting was a step toward improving the current human rights situation in the country.

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister said the country will continue its activity in the development of democracy.

Commenting on the human rights situation in the country, Mammadyarov noted that Azerbaijan is facing double standards.

"However, we often face double standards in this issue. The certain forces are responsible for this and we know it well," Mammadyarov said on October 23, stressing that Azerbaijan will not swerve from the path of democracy.

The United States also welcomed the resumption of the activities of the group and Azerbaijani president's decision to pardon prisoners, including four civil society activists.

"We share ​​Azerbaijan's idea on the construction of a safe and secure future. To this end, all citizens should be provided with fundamental freedoms under the international commitments," the U.S. embassy in Baku said.

Members of the Parliament and local human rights activists have also hailed the decision.

MP Azay Guliyev, the chairman of the Council of State Support to NGOs (CSSN) under the President of Azerbaijan, said the resumption of the working group's activities is an indicator of President Aliyev's political will.

Guliyev said the resumption of activities of the working group clearly demonstrated the value that Azerbaijan gives to the civil society. He added that civil society, in turn, has shown that it is ready to cooperate with the Azerbaijani government in matters of national importance.

"I highly appreciate the work of this group. We have already established an excellent platform for the discussion of all legal issues in Azerbaijan. This is a national mechanism for Azerbaijan, which has been fully justified. I think that after that the issues related to human rights and prisoners will not be decided outside of the country (at the request or in accordance with the agenda of an international structure), but namely within the country," Guliyev said.

Saadat Benenyarli, a human rights activist and a member of the group's secretariat, said the resumption of joint group on human rights will contribute to improving the human rights situation in the country.

She said first there will be a meeting with members of the civil society, who have included into joint group on human rights. She added that the group's decisions in the form of recommendations will be forwarded to the relevant authorities.

The restoration of the group is believed to play a positive role in addressing the human rights issues and serve as an impetus for dialogue between civil society and state-run bodies.