COVID-19: rapporteurs welcome prisoner pardon in Azerbaijan, but call for release of all political prisoners

The co-rapporteurs on the monitoring of Azerbaijan, Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC) and Sir Roger Gale (United Kingdom, EC/DA), along with the rapporteur on reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Sunna Ævarsdottir (Iceland, SOC), have welcomed the Presidential Decree issued by President Aliyev pardoning 176 prisoners aged over 65 in need of special care due to their age and state of health, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This humanitarian measure addresses concerns expressed by the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights with regard to the protection of human rights and health of people detained in prisons in Council of Europe member states during the sanitary crisis," they said.

“We note the release of two prisoners, convicted following the 2015 Nardaran events in unfair trials which raised the concerns of the international community, to which we referred in our previous report. We consider this to be a step in the right direction and now look for further progress to address all the outstanding cases,” the rapporteurs added.

Recalling Assembly Resolutions 2293 (2020) and 2184 (2017), they concluded that “discretionary presidential pardons are no substitute for an independent judiciary that prevents unjust and politically motivated detention in the first place. We call on the authorities to release all political prisoners.”