Christoph Strässer


Interview zur Festnahme von Rauf Mirkadirov und Untersuchung gegen Leyla Yunus

- Mr. Strässer, how would you comment on Leyla Yunus’ story, who is human rights activist had been questioned by investigators connected with Rauf Mirqadirov, who is currently in pretrial detention on charges of spying for Armenia? I am deeply concerned over the detention of Rauf Mirkadirov and the investigation launched against Leyla and Arif Yunus. All three are well-known and respected members of Azerbaijan’s civil society, which have been actively involved in civic dialogue and reconciliation efforts with the Armenian side. The actions and statements of Azerbaijani officials send another signal of intimidation to Azerbaijan’s civil society. On the international stage they create the impression that Azerbaijan is not interested in confidence building in the Karabakh conflict. However, building trust between the parties to the conflict and their societies is the foundation for any progress in the efforts to solve this conflict peacefully. I therefore expect the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that the investigation in the case of Rauf Mirkadirov is at least conducted in accordance with international standards of the rule of law, and that projects of cross-border civil society exchange, which have also been supported by German political foundations, can still take place. - What do you think, will Leyla’s story raise problem of political prisoner in Azerbaijan again? Leyla Yunus said that, pressures to her are related with her speech about political prisoners in Azerbaijan. But President Ilham Aliev says that, there are not political prisoners in Azerbaijan. I agree with Leyla Yunus and other human rights activists that unfortunately there still are political prisoners in Azerbaijan and that their number has even increased in recent months. In particular, the eight youth activists convicted to disproportionately harsh prison sentences of 6 to 8 years on May 6 can clearly be recognized as „political prisoners“, according to the definition which was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in October 2012. The serious shortcomings observed during the trial only corroborate the assumption that the whole process was politically motivated. This situation is not acceptable and thus EU, Council of Europe and individual member states should continue to urge the Azerbaijan authorities to release these activists or to observe their right to a fair re-trial and to fully respect their civil and political rights. Being a member state of the Council of Europe, there should not be one single political prisoner in Azerbaijan. Our common standards of modern democratic societies are not compatible with a situation where people are being harassed or put into prison for political reasons on the grounds of highly questionable accusations. - Azerbaijan takes over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. What do you think, Is Azerbaijan ready for it? As you may know, the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe changes every 6 months according to the alphabetical order of the member states. On 14 May, Azerbaijan will take over the chairmanship for the first time. I think, all the member states listened carefully, when Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mammadyarov presented the priorities of Azerbaijan’s chairmanship at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers in Vienna on 6 May, among them the fight against corruption. We do have the expectation that Azerbaijan will exercise her chairmanship in a constructive way and that Azerbaijan seizes this great opportunity in order to achieve tangible improvements in the country, in particular regarding the human rights situation. - Will you travel to Azerbaijan in the near future? I would be interested to travel to Azerbaijan and to engage in a constructive dialogue with all sides, in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground. Obviously, the situation of the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani IDPs, many of whom have been living in difficult conditions for more than twenty years, is also an important part of this picture. So far, a date for a trip to the region, which ideally would also include one or several neighbouring countries, has not yet been set. (englische Originalfassung des Interviews mit Azadliq)