Amid growing concern about its treatment of government critics, Azerbaijan on May 14 assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent’s main human-rights body.
When Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe (CoE) in 2001, many Azerbaijanis hoped that membership in an organization meant to promote rule of law and human rights would lead to improvements in the country’s own democratization record. Yet domestic and international rights organizations now routinely criticize Baku for squashing freedom of expression, riggimg elections and hijacking court rulings. According to human-rights watchdog Amnesty International, the country contains “at least 19 prisoners of conscience.” Whether or not that track record can change during Azerbaijan’s six-month chairmanship of the CoE’s Committee of Ministers, the Council’s executive organ, remains open to doubt.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance correspondent based in Baku.