US ambassador tells OSCE Project coordinator in Baku
The US last week called on the Azerbaijani government to facilitate the work of the OSCE project coordinator in the country in all dimensions, “particularly the human dimension” and urged the project coordinator to redouble his efforts to support genuine dialogue with civil society, and to promote respect for the rule of law, democratic elections, fundamental freedoms, and human rights and good governance,” TURAN’s Washington DC correspondent reports.
Washington’s messages, voiced by Ambassador Daniel Baer, US representative to OSCE at the organization’s Permanent Council in Vienna, where OSCE Project Coordinator in Baku Alexis Chahtatinsky reported appeared first time with a report.
The OSCE last year decided to adopt the mandate of its office in Baku to project coordinator, upon Azeri government’s request. The Baku office was transformed into the Project Coordinator as of 1 January 2014.
Despite Washington’s clear resistance when Azeri officials raised the issue, there weren’t any significant criticism from the western countries, including US regarding the move. Amb. Chahtatinsky, a french diplomat, has been appointed as project coordinator in Baku starting from 1 March 2014.
İn his speech at the Permanent Council last week, Baer urged Chahtatinsky to boost his personal efforts to reach out to and engage with civil society in Azerbaijan.
“I noted that the two photos of you were with President Aliyev and the foreign minister… There was no photo of you reading the Decalogue, there was no photo of you with civil society, and I would just like to remind you that, while consultation with the host government is certainly an important part of your work, you work for all of us, and you work for the principles that underlie this organization. Your masters are not the Government of Azerbaijan…” he said.
As Azerbaijan seeks to assume greater responsibility in the international community, the US “remains committed to working with Baku, and through the OSCE, to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to advance democratic development in the country,” Amb Baer stated, reminding that the OSCE Project coordinator in Baku has a “special responsibility to work with the people of Azerbaijan and to help the government uphold the organization’s principles, values, and commitments in all three dimensions – especially regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms – and to maintain and use strong contacts with civil society in this work.”
“The OSCE Project Coordinator mandate articulated in PC Decision 1092 explicitly calls on the office to “maintain contacts” with civil society – including outside the context of specific projects. We urge you to execute your mandate with this crucial role in mind. Efforts to restrict OSCE activities by limiting contacts with civil society, and an unduly restrictive project approval process in the Memorandum of Understanding, hinder the OSCE from providing valuable support to Azerbaijan and are unacceptable,” he said.
As the Azeri government continues to put pressure on independent media, NGOs, and civil society activists, Washington has raised its concerns about numerous cases at the OSCE, he reminded.
For example, the US “remains deeply troubled by the sentencing of opposition leaders Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu in March, and of Anar Mammadli, Chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, in May, based on unsubstantiated charges presented after their involvement in peaceful activities. Likewise, we remain deeply troubled by the investigation and restrictions on freedom of movement of Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, her husband Arif, and journalist Rauf Mirkadirov, all of whom were involved in Track II people-to-people diplomacy in the region.”
The cases of the three Facebook activists, Elsever Mursalli, Abdul Abilov and Omar Mammadov, who face dubious drug charges in response to their criticism of the government for corruption and human rights violations, “send a chilling message about the right to freely voice one’s opinion in Azerbaijan,” Amb.Baer said.
Most recently, he added, NGO leader Hasan Huseynli, from the town of Ganja, was sentenced to a long imprisonment on specious charges – “yet another example of this disturbing pattern of repression of those seeking to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in our common OSCE commitments, including respect for freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and movement.”