PASOS calls upon international institutions to urge President of Azerbaijan to reject restrictive amendments to NGO legislation
European leaders and diplomats must pressure President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan not to approve a package of laws intended to stifle the activities of NGOs. according to a statement signed by the PASOS Board of Directors and members.
“If the amendments came into force, Azerbaijan authorities would gain enhanced powers to arbitrarily fine, and close down, non-governmental organisations that perform important monitoring functions and serve as an independent critical voice towards government policies,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, the changes would create new administrative burdens for NGOs upon receipt and reporting of grants.”
The Azerbaijani Parliament approved the legislation in December, and President Aliyev is scheduled to sign it into law February 1.
The PASOS statement was directed to Catherine Ashton, Vice-President, European Commission, and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Council; Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy; Martin Schulz, President, European Parliament; Anne Brasseur, President, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe.
The PASOS statement, which can be read in full here, echoes an earlier call from a coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs. PASOS members the Center for Economic and Social Development and the Economic Research Center (ERC) are among 60 groups in the Civil Society Defence Committee, an alliance of Azerbaijani NGOs trying to head off the repressive legislation.
“The legal changes would limit the legal forms available to registration of new non-governmental organisations, and would allow the courts to close down an NGO if it has been served notices for infringing any legislative requirements more than twice in one year,” according to the PASOS statement.
“The Parliament of Azerbaijan passed the legislation a day after a three months’ detention order was imposed on Anar Mammadli, the Chair of the Election Monitoring and Democratic Studies Center (EMDS), a respected civil society organisation that criticised the conduct of the Azerbaijan Presidential elections of 9 October 2013. The charges against him are entirely unfounded. EMDS is one of the human rights and pro-democracy civil society organisations in Azerbaijan that has repeatedly been denied permission to register.”