To the attention of Mr. Erling Skjønsberg, the Ambassador of Norway to the Republic of Azerbaijan

Open Letter


Dear Mr. Ambassador!

The information was broadcasted on,,, and other websites that through your office of Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan your country is officially organizing, or at least actively supporting, a politically inspired event that will take place in Baku on November 4th. Personally I deeply regret to this news. The NGO “For the sake of Human Rights” is organizing that day a conference on the issue “To asses and to ask the release of political prisoners on the basis of UN and CE criteria.”

For more than two years the Azerbaijani Delegation to the Council of Europe is asking to start within PACE an open and transparent debate on those criteria, unfortunately without success. Some NGO’s, together with Azeri opposition parties, by all means want to avoid this debate and appeal on foreign countries and their ambassadors to give them support, not to have this open debate.

It is really surprising and regretful that your country is supporting this point of view. At least for me, it is.

In the mean time, waiting in vain to have the debate on the criteria, Azerbaijan was the one and only singled out country in the CE, to be the subject of a fact-finding report on that issue. Fortunately, most recently, the PACE institutions finally accepted that this issue might concern not only Azerbaijan, but for sure is affecting several member countries of the CE. Thus, the title of the report was recently changed into “Revisiting the issue of political prisoners”. Also the decision was taken to include the debate on the definition and the criteria, being a well-defined part of this report.

Sincere confidence arises if all member states of CE are treated in the same way. This new approach will allow the PACE to deal from with this delicate item in the future on a fully comprehensive and impartial way, as the report will be inclusive for all 47 member states, as the same kind of fact finding missions will be organized in all concerned countries and as all individual alleged cases will be checked to the same criteria.

In a first approach, it will be interesting to learn from the Rapporteur, Mr. Straesser from Germany, to which criteria he wants to check the alleged presence of political prisoners in all those member countries, and which document he would like to use as a framework reference. We are aware that the secretariat of the PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee, in an attempt to also run away from the debate, prefers to refer to some vague 1991 criteria that were defined by the United Nations in the case of Namibia. It should be noted that the notion of “political prisoner” was worked out in 1989-1990 by Professor Karl Aage Nergard, when he visited Namibia in the mission of the United Nations and the notion was used on the basis of “Nergard principles”. I should stress that “Nergard principles” were not and could not be confirmed as a universal document, which could be applied to all member countries, either during their use in Namibia case or then by any UN authority. However, as you know these criteria were never discussed or approved in PACE’s plenary session. Moreover, today these criteria are more than 20 years old. Can you imagine? Then even the notion “terrorist” was not introduced in international law, and the mentioned criteria were focusing only on how the United Nations wanted to deal with the particular situation of that south-African state at that moment.

For this reason I do not understand what the organizers of the November 4th event in Baku mean with “on the basis of the UN and CE criteria”, as these criteria do not exist.

I do regret that your country, who has such a long democratic tradition, is giving – through your office of Ambassador – support to this initiative of an NGO who wants to compose lists with names of alleged political prisoners, without disposing of any recognized standards or criteria. It is clear that their only purpose is to create the situation of a political deal without any criteria and to damage our country under the name of political prisoner for the sake of their own private political targets. Moreover, running away from any open, democratic or transparent debate on actual, updated and universal criteria, gives them the opportunity to declare whatever they want. Please do realize to what you are giving your precious support without the criteria on political prisoner….

To my opinion, the decision should be made regarding the PACE criteria, and those criteria should be applied to all member states in an equal way. I reiterate that the criteria should be applied not only to Azerbaijan, but also to all PACE member states.

For us, legal certainty is one of the most important elements of the rule of law. Why is it not for you?

With my highest consideration,

Elkhan Suleymanov

Member of the Azerbaijani Delegation to PACE,

Member of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights,

Chairman of the Azerbaijani Delegation to the EURONEST PA

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