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Strasbourg, 17 January 2019
Delivered by Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini
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Thank you very much Mr President.
Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for this possibility to discuss again on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. We have been following very closely – like you all have – the situation and recent developments in the case of Mehman Husaynov [Azerbaijani journalist]. This came to our attention already in 2017 and we made a statement then. Let me use this opportunity to tell you what we have been doing in recent days.
Following the demarche of the Delegation of the European Union in Baku and thanks to the cooperation of the Azerbaijani authorities, the EU Delegation, together with five Member States’ missions, visited Mr Husaynov in prison. The visit, at the end of last week, allowed us to establish that his life was not at immediate risk. He is receiving medical care and he has stopped his hunger strike.* Nevertheless, we do believe - like you - that the new charges against him for allegedly assaulting prison staff, lack credibility and should be dropped. And we are aware – as some of you raised – of other hunger strikes by activists. We are following up here through contacts with their lawyers, with the prison services and I know that they have been visited by the Red Cross.
Over the past years, the EU has placed considerable emphasis on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. We do so in our political dialogue with the country, including at high-level meetings and at the EU-Azerbaijan Subcommittee on Justice Affairs and Human Rights. The Joint Partnership Priorities, as agreed in July last year, underscore that the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are key in our relationship.
The new EU-Azerbaijan agreement, currently being negotiated, will also have democratic reforms, the rule of law, good governance, and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms at its core.
We remain all too aware of the considerable challenges related to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan. We believe that we should work on addressing them through dialogue, including through the negotiations on the new agreement. We need to have channels of communication to build mutual trust and engagement to effectively pursue our values and interests in Azerbaijan. While pursuing our engagement with the authorities, we are continuing to work closely with civil society organisations, independent media, and human rights defenders to follow up on their concerns.
We will continue to raise the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all our dialogues, most notably during the upcoming meeting on Justice Affairs and Human Rights in Baku on 5 February. And we will follow closely developments in the case of Mehman Husaynov and other human rights defenders and journalists including for instance Khadija Ismayilova.
And we will continue, of course, our close dialogue with all of you on these issues.
Thank you very much.
* Mr Husaynov has been accepting water, tea and dairy products. We continue to monitor his health situation.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I166397