Azerbaijan snubs US pre-election mission; Georgia rolls out the red carpet.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia.

The Azerbaijani government refused to accept a US Government delegation ahead of the country’s forthcoming Presidential elections. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Baku said the visit of the delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia, was “postponed at the request of the Azerbaijani government”. No reason was given. More…

In Azerbaijan, two leading candidates in the Presidential elections are not campaigning. Why?

Ilgar Mammedov being detained by police in Baku on 4 February 2013 (picture courtesy of RFE/RL)

Ilgar Mammedov being detained by police in Baku on 4 February 2013 (picture courtesy of RFE/RL)

There are several peculiar things connected with the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan on 9 October, but surely the one that is most peculiar is that two leading contenders are not campaigning at all. One does not want to, and the other cannot. More…

Commentary: Election Monitoring: time to shift the emphasis onto local monitors.

Observers of Transparency International georgia planning election monitoring ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. (picture courtesy of TI Georgia).

Observers of Transparency International Georgia planning election monitoring ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. (picture courtesy of TI Georgia).

There are some who think that the time for large scale international election monitoring is outdated and needs to adapt to the changing circumstances. Smaller teams with more political clout, working closely with local activists may be better placed to focus on what really matters – the substance of whether or not an election has reflected the views of the electorate, and if the conditions existed for those views to be formed in a reasonably free atmosphere. The Georgian Parliamentary Elections in October 2012 proved the effectiveness of domestic election monitoring, which ideally should form the basis for election monitoring. Reports of Election Monitoring Missions often focus on technical aspects of election organisation. Frankly, at least within the OSCE area, after twenty years of experience this should not be an issue at all anymore, and if it is it is best to be dealt with outside the context of election observation. More…

Stand-off in Vienna as Azerbaijan tries to change the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku.

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the...

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The diplomatic row between Azerbaijan and the OSCE regarding the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku went public last week in Vienna.On 14 May 2013, whilst in Vienna accompanying President Ilham Aliev who was on a state visit to Austria, the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, took time to address formally the representatives of the 57 participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at a meeting of the Organisation’s Permanent Council.

Couched in diplomatic language the Minister’s speech, and the response to it from many of the diplomats present, highlighted a serious stand-off on the issue of the role of the Office of the OSCE in Baku. The office was established in 1999 and was seen as an important mechanism to accompany Azerbaijan’s programme of reforms aimed at bringing it in line with OSCE commitments.

Over the recent months Azerbaijan has been asking for the mandate of the office to change, in practise reducing its role to that of a technical office. Since the budget of the office is part of the OSCE budget, and since the budget needs to be approved by consensus by all the member states Azerbaijan has been hinting that it may veto the whole budget unless its request is satisfied.

This is only one of many issues that have emerged over the last year in Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU and other countries as a result of a crack-down against all form of dissent in the country.

read the current mandate of the OSCE office in Baku here.OSCE Baku office mandate More…

The case of Ilgar Mammedov puts the Council of Europe on the spot.

ilgar mammedov 2The case of Azerbaijani political activist Ilgar Mammedov is fast becoming a test-case of the resilience and integrity of those European institutions that are meant to be the guardians of human rights on the continent. Mammedov was arrested earlier this year after visiting the town of Ismaili at a time when rioting was taking place.  Mammedov is accused of inciting the riot.

Unrests in Ismailli district began on the evening of January 23, after an accident involving the nephew of the head of the local administration Nizami Alekperov, and the son of the Minister of Labor Fizuli Alekperov – Vugar Alekperov, triggering a riot. The participants set fire to a number of commercial entities belonging to officials. Special Forces and internal troops entered the district using rubber bullets and tear gas  There were dozens of arrests and many injured as a result of clashes. Mammedov, who is also Director of the Council of Europe Schgool for Political Studies in Baku and co-Chair of the social movement “Real”, went to Ismaili to investigate the incident and was subsequently arrested and accused of inciting the riot.

His case was raised this week by the Council of Europe, an institution that has traditionally been the beacon of human rights on the continent. Azerbaijan is a member of the Council and will take over its rotating chairmanship in 2014. There is great unease in European circles about the message this will send, and frustration at a deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan at this juncture. More…

US State Department 2012 global report on human rights exposes serious shortcomings in all three countries of the South Caucasus.

The US Department of State last week released its annual publication “Country reports on human rights practices” which reviews the global human rights situation throughout the world.. The report highlights serious problems in the field of human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and a systematic democratic deficit in the governance of the three countries. Many of the issues raised in the report have been reported on by Caucasus Elections Watch throughout last year, including the situation in prisons, problems with the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, harassment of opposition activists and problems with the electoral process.

“It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous. They are better neighbours, stronger allies, and better economic partners. Governments that enforce safe workplaces, prohibit exploitative child and forced labour, and educate their citizens create a more level playing field and broader customer base for the global marketplace. Conversely, governments that threaten regional and global peace, from Iran to North Korea, are also egregious human rights abusers, with citizens trapped in the grip of domestic repression, economic deprivation, and international isolation.” US Secretary of State, John Kerry

“It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous. They are better neighbours, stronger allies, and better economic partners. Governments that enforce safe workplaces, prohibit exploitative child and forced labour, and educate their citizens create a more level playing field and broader customer base for the global marketplace. Conversely, governments that threaten regional and global peace, from Iran to North Korea, are also egregious human rights abusers, with citizens trapped in the grip of domestic repression, economic deprivation, and international isolation.”
US Secretary of State, John Kerry

We reproduce here the Executive Summaries of the report with regards to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The full report can be accessed at http://www.state.gov. More…