Ambassador Jankauskas welcomed the decision of the Azerbaijani Bar Association to reinstate human rights lawyers Shahla Humbatova and Irada Javadova and emphasised the expectation that the review of the remaining cases of disbarred and suspended lawyers will follow. The Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan underlined that human rights lawyers are pillars of the rule of law and play a key role in protecting democratic values.
This meeting drew to a close the 9th EU-Azerbaijan Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom, Security and Human Rights and Democracy that took place on 26 and 27 April. The meeting should have taken place in Baku, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, it took place via videoconference. The Subcommittee meeting was held to review the latest developments in the area of justice, freedom, security and human rights and democracy since the last meeting held in March 2020 and to enable an open exchange of views on ongoing reforms, their implementation and future plans, including possibilities for EU support and cooperation in these areas. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, presented an overview of the human rights challenges and policy developments within the EU since the last EU-Azerbaijan dialogue on human rights. His engagement and presence reflects the importance the EU attaches to the human rights dimension in the EU-Azerbaijan relations.
This year the meeting took place under particular circumstances. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have had an increasingly negative impact on the human rights situation, democracy and rule of law. In the aftermath of the war, the EU highlighted the importance of accountability for any violation of international humanitarian law that must be thoroughly and impartially investigated. The EU also reiterated the importance to finalise the return of remaining Armenian servicemen in accordance with international humanitarian law and obligations undertaken by the Parties. The return of IDPs remains the priority for Azerbaijan and in that respect there is an urgent need for demining, as this is a prerequisite for the safe return of people to the conflict affected territories.
The first part of the EU-Azerbaijan Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom, Security and Human Rights and Democracy meeting was dedicated to human rights and democracy. The EU and Azerbaijan discussed the continuous challenges related to freedoms of assembly, association and expression and a number of individual cases were raised. Both sides also informed about developments related to gender equality and children's rights and exchanged views on cooperation in international multilateral and regional fora.
During the second part of the Subcommittee the EU and Azerbaijan reviewed the reforms undertaken in the justice sector and discussed the overall good cooperation on migration, asylum and border management. They also discussed the developments in the area of combating organised crime, fight against trafficking in human beings and illicit drugs. In the area of fight against corruption and in the legal framework providing personal data protection, both sides exchanged information about the recent measures and reforms that have been undertaken.
The EU and Azerbaijan will continue to engage on the areas covered by this Subcommittee.
The 9th EU-Azerbaijan Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom, Security and Human Rights and Democracy was co- chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev and Richard Tibbels, Head of Division in the European External Action Service. In preparing the Subcommittee meeting, the EU met with representatives of civil society organisations.