Elkhan Suleymanov: PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights made a decision on splitting the reports on Revisiting the issue of political prisoners
On May 21 2012, meeting of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights was held in Paris. The address of 28 Committee members concerning splitting of reports on “Revisiting the issue of political prisoners” was discussed at the meeting. This was told by Mr. Elkhan Suleymanov, MP from Shamakhi and member of the Committee in question.
The Member of the Parliament told that current discussions are of great significance for the Council of Europe. Thus, the issue of a political prisoner has been the subject of serious discussion and arguments in the Council of Europe for more than ten years. The reason of these issues were the facts that internationally legal nature of the concept of a “political prisoner” remains unclear, its legal criteria have not been defined, the principle of equal rights of CE member states regarding the problem is violated.
Mr. Elkhan Suleymanov stated that as a consequence of activities, tension concerning the issue of political prisoners slowed down in the Council of Europe since 2005, and the mandate of special rapporteur on the issue of a political prisoner in Azerbaijan was cancelled. However, as a result of the efforts of some forces, the issue was again brought into the agenda; the decision was made to merge the two reports on “The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan” and “Definition of a political prisoner”, and Mr. Christoph Straesser was charged with the mandate of preparing these reports. Thus, the issue of a political prisoner became dependent on the position of one MP within the Council of Europe.
According to the Member of the Parliament, the Committee reconsidered the issue in October 2011. It was decided to change the title of the report into “Revisiting the issue of political prisoners” in CE member states. However, Mr. Christoph Straesser continued to tell that there was no need to define legal criteria of the concept of a “political prisoner” and insisted on following up political prisoners only in Azerbaijan.
Finally, on Mr. Straesser’s initiative, the Legal Affairs Committee held hearings on this issue in January of 2012. Well-known human rights defenders of Azerbaijan invited by Mr. Straesser stated that there were no criteria for the concept of a “political prisoner”. The absolute majority of the Committee members, who delivered speech, highlighted the necessity of splitting reports on following up political prisoners and the definition of the concept of a “political prisoner”.
Mr. Elkhan Suleymanov told that as a solution to the problematic situation regarding the issue, 28 members of the PACE Legal Affairs Committee sent an address to the Chairman of the Committee Mr. Christopher Chope and to the Secretariat. In their address, parliamentarians brought to the attention the necessity of splitting reports on the topic of “Revisiting the issue of political prisoners” at the meeting of the Committee on May 21, 2012 and asked to include the issue in the agenda and put it to vote.
The Member of the Parliament stressed that according to the Rules of Procedure, the issue was added to the agenda. During discussions some Committee members made a speech, called their colleagues to be objective regarding this issue, to stop discrimination and to support the address of Committee members on splitting reports in order to make a real progress towards the settlement of the issue. As a result of voting, a historical decision was made about splitting the reports.
Moreover, Mr. Elkhan Suleymanov evaluated the adoption of this decision as a step towards respecting European values and rule of law in the European area, where CE member states live together as a family.
Finally, clarifying the issue regarding Mr. Straesser’s preparing the report on Azerbaijan, the Member of the Parliament told that according to the Committee’s current decision, first of all, the criteria for the concept of a “political prisoner” should be prepared in the Council of Europe and a resolution should be adopted in the plenary meeting. Only afterwards, the follow-up of the allegations regarding the presence of political prisoners in the member states may be carried out. Therefore, the decision of the Legal Affairs Committee dated May 21 of 2012 may be evaluated as a new page in the Council of Europe.