PASOS members join call for Azerbaijan president not to approve anti-NGO laws
News Source: PASOS Secretariat, Czech Republic
Two PASOS members in Baku have joined a public plea from a coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs asking their country’s president not to approve a package of proposed anti-NGO laws.
The Center for Economic and Social Development and the Economic Research Center (ERC) are among 60 members of the Civil Society Defence Committee, an alliance of NGOs trying to head off the repressive legislation. The Azerbaijani Parliament approved the legislation in December, and President Ilham Aliyev is scheduled to sign it into law February 1.
“We know that you understand and appreciate the role of civil society and the integral part of non-governmental organizations in nation building,” reads a statement addressed to Aliyev. “In your speech on November 24 at a meeting with the heads of the media, you were in favor of the need for dialogue with the opposition, which we, as a representative of the interests of social groups, welcome. But we at the same time want to note that the third sector needs to continue the dialogue, which was initiated by you in July 2012.
“But, unfortunately, the long-awaited dialogue has not found its continuation. Moreover, we clearly observed a regress in the legislative environment for NGO activities. In particular, we are talking about changes in the laws, “On State Registration of Legal Entities and State Register” and “Non-Governmental Organizations (Associations and Foundations)” in February and December 2013. These changes contradict your order, “On Approval of the Concept of State Support to NGOs” and “On approval of the National Plan of Action for the Protection of Human Rights” dated 27 July 2007. The core of both regulations is the democratization of public life, strengthening public participation in making important government decisions, improving the policy of support and advocacy of NGOs.
“Given the importance of understanding the issue from your side, we ask you to initiate further the dialogue interrupted. We also bring to your attention that non-governmental organizations need direct meeting with you to bring to you our hopes and aspirations.”
On January 28, a group of heads of NGOs, community leaders and representatives of diplomatic missions attending a civil society forum in Azerbaijan joined the plea.
“We believe that these changes in laws severely restrict the activities of NGOs,” said Gubad Ibadoglu, director of the ERC. Ibadoglu presided over the event, which was attended by U.S. Ambassador Richard Morningstar.
“Civil society plays an important role in protecting the dignity and human rights,” Morningstar told the gathering. “Freedom of assembly and media are important for democracy. Civil society monitors the work of the government, fighting corruption, and plays an important role in the state system.”