May 14 marks a new low in European cynicism: Azerbaijan, a country ruled by an authoritarian government, which in recent years has stifled a free press and muzzled free speech, is assuming the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the organization’s decision-making body.
Let’s not forget that the Council of Europe (CoE) is supposed to be an organization devoted to promoting human rights and democratization. It is a travesty that a country which disdains fundamental European values is now leading the Council.
Azerbaijan was admitted to the CoE in January 2001, despite well documented democratic shortcomings. The hope at that time was that CoE membership would exert a positive influence on Baku, pressing Azerbaijani leaders to embrace a more open system. However, the opposite has occurred: over the last decade Baku’s democratization performance has steadily declined, and Azerbaijan finds itself routinely at the bottom of many rankings compiled by watchdog groups concerning political freedom, corruption and rights abuses.
To read the full story
Vugar Gojayev is a fellow at Human Rights Watch. He writes in his personal capacity.