Response to the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku, Ambassador Koray Targay

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
July 5, 2012

We warmly welcome Ambassador Targay to the Permanent Council and thank him for his presentation and comprehensive report.  The United States supports the work of the Office in Baku, particularly its efforts to help strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan.

We applaud the Office’s efforts to assist the government of Azerbaijan in strengthening ethics and integrity in its police force, to address corruption and money laundering, and to assist with international co-ordination related to counter-terrorism and organized crime. We support the Office’s activities to promote democratic electoral processes, community policing, judicial reform, and respect for freedoms of expression and assembly.  We appreciate activities by the Office promoting the rule of law, including training to increase the independence and professionalization of judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers.

We commend Azerbaijan and the Office on the effective implementation of the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

We welcome the OSCE’s efforts to promote media freedom in Azerbaijan.  We again join our OSCE colleagues in underscoring the importance of accountability for recent violence against journalists in Azerbaijan.  We welcome the government’s condemnation of the attempted blackmail of investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova, and we continue to urge authorities to ensure a thorough investigation of the incident.  We also share the OSCE’s concerns about the incarceration of journalists and about the implementation of recent amendments that would restrict public access to information.  We call on the Azerbaijani Government to work closely with the OSCE on these issues.

We recall the statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Baku on June 6, in which she urged the Azerbaijani government to “respect their citizens’ right to express views peacefully, to release those who have been detained for doing so – in print or on the streets – or for defending human rights.” We also echo the words of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic in her recent letter to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov:  “The media should be free to play their essential role in society.”

We welcomed the pardon last month of nine activists who had been imprisoned since their participation in protests in Baku in March and April 2011, and we call upon the Azerbaijani Government to ensure that judicial authorities review the convictions of those who remain imprisoned for allegedly politically motivated reasons, in accordance with Azerbaijan’s constitutional and international commitments.  We join the OSCE in calling on Azerbaijan to uphold its own international commitments to respect the rights of all its citizens to fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. We also encourage the government of Azerbaijan to advance the goals set out in the new Human Rights Action Plan which was approved by President Aliyev in December of last year.

We welcomed the Government of Azerbaijan’s recent effort to begin a dialogue with civil society representatives, an initiative that we will continue to follow closely as it develops.  We encourage the Office, as well as the Government of Azerbaijan, to collaborate with civil society to develop additional constructive initiatives in the area of democratic reform and human rights.  In addition, we encourage the Government to increase its efforts to address the ongoing challenge of effectively combating trafficking in human beings, particularly by doing more to identify victims, and to prosecute perpetrators.

Ambassador Targay, thank you again for your report and we look forward to your next presentation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.