Statement of the National Council of Democratic Forces on the strategic agreement between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union

The National Council of Democratic Forces states that integration into the European legal, political, economic and cultural space, the full and equal transformation of Azerbaijani society into the European family is the best strategic choice that meets the highest interests and goals of the people and the Azerbaijani state. This choice has no alternative.
This choice was made by the people of Azerbaijan 100 years ago when creating the first secular and democratic republic in the whole Muslim world and we are committed to this progress and development path that our fathers have chosen wisely at the beginning of the last century.
We declare that we see the free, prosperous future of Azerbaijan in its approximation and co-operation with the European Union, in full and deep integration into the European geopolitical space, as an equal member of the European family .
Unfortunately, our country, which in the period between 1918-1920 ranked among the most democratic countries in the world and was ahead of many European countries in promotion of human rights and democracy, today stands in the same line with the world’s most repressive regimes .
The National Council states with the deep regret that the country”s image is seriously damaged.
It”s negatively mentioned in the media and different investigation scandals related to corruption and bribery, offshore accounts, money laundering, monopoly, election fraud, opaque governance, murders, tortures, political persecutions, political prisoners etc.
The National Council believes that since Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe in 2001 it severely dwindled in the area of ​​democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, rule of law and effective governance :
1. While 51 political prisoners have been released under the amnesty order of March 16, 2019, there are still more than a hundred political prisoners in Azerbaijan and the “conveyor”, which produces political prisoners, is in action;
2. In detention centers and prisons the political prisoners are subjected to severe physical and moral tortures, their human dignity is humiliated, they are subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment, some of them are unable to meet family members and advocates for months; It”s evident that political prisoner Mehman Galandarov died as a result of torture in the prison;
3. In the context of so called “Terter case” and “Ganja case”, during investigation process more than 20 people were tortured to death. Subsequently some of the families received apology letters acknowledging wrongdoing during the prosecution;
4. Lawyers defending the political prisoners and confirming the tortures against them are being removed from the Bar Association;
The Bar Association has turned into an institution that has lost its original functionality, it simply executes the orders coming from the Presidential administration; the country’s legal defense institutions has been totally destroyed and political activists remain defenseless;
5. No independent newspaper, website or other media institution function in the country, independent websites are blocked by unsubstantiated court decisions based on political order, all television channels broadcast throughout the country, including Public Television, are under the total control of the government.
With the exception of social networks, alternative information in the information space in Azerbaijan ha has been fully blocked.
It has become extremely dangerous to express critical views on social networks, share statuses or “like” the status of the opposition leaders. There are “like prisoners” in the country, who have been subjected to administrative arrest because of their critical FB status.
The Azerbaijani government is frequently engaged in cybercrime attacks against publicly accessible social networking resources, as well as social networking of political activists and is clearly engaged in cybercrime. All this has resulted in almost complete drowning of freedom of speech in our country.
6. Limitations on the freedom of assembly that existed before have been reinforced by the full ban on this right after January 19, 2019.
Thus, the National Council’s as well as other similar public-political organizations requests on holding a rally in the Government designated area of January, 23 February, 2 March, 6 April and 20 April, , were subsequently rejected. Hundreds of National Council and APFP activists were prosecuted and imprisoned for up to 30 days for making preparation to the rally.
7. During the 18 years of Azerbaijan”s membership to the Council of Europe, political arena and civil society were destroyed. The political parties and organizations are struggling for survival, being under severe persecution, pressure and deprivation.
Children of political activists are threatened, beaten and insulted on the streets and schools, oppositional youth are refused entry or forced out from the café and restaurants. Families of brides are warned and threatened not to marry with the opposition members. Government controlled TV channels make open calls such as: “Do not sell bread to the opposition, don’t let them enter the public transport, refuse medical help etc.
Unfortunately this is the bitter and painful reality of today’s Azerbaijan on the eve of signing of the agreement with the European Union.
8. There has been no one democratic presidential, parliamentary, municipal elections in the country over the past 25 years, and a free and competitive electoral institute has been abolished. There is no one single opposition MP in the country’s parliament. The supreme will of the people has been repeatedly abused, and the people have no the right to form and change the power through the elections.
9. Diversification of the economy, which comprises 95% of oil and gas revenues was not carried out in the country. As a result of the devaluation of 2015 and 2016, the national currency lost 2.5 times its value and the population became even poorer.
Unemployment and poverty have become the main problem of the country. This economic crisis is an exceptional result of the corruption and monopoly policy imposed on the country, as well as the management of non-professional and nepotism interests. Corruption and monopoly interests of the ruling elite have for many years hindered the establishment of an open market economy based on a fair competitive environment in the country, and consequently, Azerbaijan’s accession to the World Trade Organization.
10. Independence of the courts in Azerbaijan have been completely and unequivocally denied. Particularly on the politically motivated cases the courts just execute the orders coming from the Presidential Administration.
11. The principle of division of power in the country is of a fiction. Both the legislative power and the judiciary have become a branch of the presidential administration. It cannot even be imagined that the parliament and the judiciary make any decision beyond the will of the executive.
The most optimistic way to bring Azerbaijan out of this disgraceful situation and to bring the citizens of Azerbaijan into the European legal, political and economic space is the soonest adoption of the values ​​and principles of human rights, rule of law, democracy, free competition and choice.
As a National Council, with the European Union we wish to sign the Association Agreement, which includes Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area ( DCFTA ) as soon as possible.
While the political leadership of Azerbaijan turns the blind eye to the interests of the state and the people, making corruption and bribery a key management mechanism in the country, keeps opposition out of the negotiation details we understand and support strongly the relations with the European Union. It is for this reason that we are very grateful and strongly support the preparation of the Strategic Partnership Treaty with the EU from conceptual point of view.
But what we consider principally is the circumstances under which this Agreement is signed and what are the terms. We are opposed that this Agreement serves the interests of the Aliyev regime, rather than the real interests of the Azerbaijani people and state, and the real integration of Azerbaijan into the European space, if the environment of the semi-dictatorship we described above is signed on the political ground under the pressure and discrimination with a country that does not even meet the standards of human rights and democracy, with dozens of political prisoners being detained, torture practices are spread, people are questioned without question, freedom of speech and assembly is free, and elements of a free and competitive electoral institute will strengthen the positions of tough authoritarianism in our country, which has already entered the stage of transition to dictatorship, deepening partnership relations in case of conditions and conditions.
This will undermine Europe and universal values, and will have a great impact on the image and reputation of the European Union in the Azerbaijani society. We believe that after the Council of Europe, which has been shaken by the “caviar diplomacy”, the European Union, which is largely due to the resolute and principled position of our people, especially the European Parliament, will not lose the confidence and sympathy of the Azerbaijani people.
As a National Council for Democratic Forces, we declare that our initial and uncompromised condition for any Agreement to be signed with the European Union is recognition of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories (as its stated in the agreements signed with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
As a National Council, we express our full support to the European Parliament’s resolution on Azerbaijan and EU on 04/02/2018 and we consider it useful and acceptable for the parties to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement only within the terms set out in that resolution. We declare that the European Union should encourage the Government of Azerbaijan to fulfill the requirements set out in that resolution as soon as possible:
1. All political prisoners should be released and the practice of political prisoners should be abolished;
2. Serious practical steps must be taken to ensure the freedom of the media and freedom of assembly;
3. Wider electoral reform should be initiated, including the improvement of election legislation, taking into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (Warsaw);
4. A favorable environment for the activities of civil society and independent NGOs should be restored;
5. The harassment and oppression of political parties and activists must be abandoned, any discrimination on the political ground should be eliminated, and the healthy political environment should be restored;
6. Imitation should be ended in the fight against corruption and monopoly, real and serious measures should be taken, artificial obstacles to the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization should be eliminated.
7. The independence of the judiciary system should not be imitational as it has been done in the direction of transforming its executive power from the status of executor of political orders and becoming a real justice mechanism, and real judicial-legal reforms should be undertaken.
8. The text of the Agreement shall be made available to the public of Azerbaijan, subject to transparency and the legitimate interests of the Azerbaijani people.
The Azerbaijani people deserve better prosperity, more transparent and efficient management, progress and development, a more liberal and democratic society and an equal member of the European peoples’ family. We are convinced that as a result of our efforts with the European Union, our people will soon be able to achieve this right.