23. Mai 2013
I was too optimistic, because I could have thought that it could become even worse
You were amongst the few who voted for the report on political prisoners in January this year. But the report was not adopted. Do you see progress or setbacks in Azerbaijan in terms of political prisoners, freedom of voting, free assembly since you were co-rapporteur?
I couldn’t have believed that this would be possible seven years ago, when I stopped working especially hard for democracy in AZ – after having been there nearly 30 times – but today I have the impression that the situation is even worse. Human rights are even less respected, critics are persecuted for small public critical remarks, the regime did not learn a lot. The only difference is, that these enormous deficits get more global public attention than some years ago, where only a few people were really aware what happens in AZ.
What is your view of recent detentions in Azerbaijan? Particularly, youth activists, and those with more or less participation in this-year protests have been detained.
A democratic government would be aware that every democratic society needs engaged young people who care about their society and it’s future. These people are always critical and wise governors would praise this although it does not make their life easy. But this is not the main duty of young citizens. On the top of the AZ regime it seems that not many people are aware of this. Instead of trying to establish a dialog with and about the future of AZ these people shut these voices down and even arrest them on fabricated charges as it happen to my friend and fellow democrat Ilgar Mammadov. Or they threat others as my other big friend and writer Alekper Alijew and provoke that they have to leave the country. By doing this the regime undermines it’s own future and does not serve the interest of the majority of the Azeri people.
Are there any means of pressure that international watchdogs including CE could use to have Azerbaijan meet its commitments?
There are always people in these organisations who understand the situation, try to develop pressure, but today we are rather weak. Not enough understand enough and are able not to fall into the communicative traps the regime establishes in many places of Europe.
On implementing obligations, officials as a rule refer to violation of rights of some one million refugees and IDPs and also double standards towards Azerbaijan. Do you agree?
Not at all. When others make mistakes this is for honest people never an excuse to do also mistakes. The lost war and the unresolved conflicts with Armenia are excellent excuses for the own enormous failures and mistakes of the Azeri regime. And this behaviour is one element why democracy is very poor in AZ and this again is one of the reasons, why peace can not be found between AZ and Armenia. This vircious circle has deadly consequences for most of the people implicated and that’s why we have to try everything to overcome it.
In 2005 (or 2006) you said «the worst thing that could happen has happened. By their irresponsible actions the rulers killed the democratic hope among people. Nobody believes anymore that any positive changes are possible in this country.» What is your view today?
I was too pessimistic and too optimistic on the same time. I was too optimistic, because I could have thought that it could become even worse. I was too pessimistic, that I didn’t hope that under these conditions young democrats would still be able to rise and to speak out as they did.
Once you regarded Ilham Aliyev as more loyal to democratic principles than his father, but that persons and forces within government prevented from reforms. Do you still keep this opinion?
No. I overestimated Ilham Alieyev and do think today that even his father tried more for the better in the time I worked with him, between November 1999 and this death. His father was more committed to the political development of the country, the son is more detracted by other more easy sides of life and leaves too much to those who only care about their own personal money and power. This is a real disappointment for me although I had already ten years ago many doubts.
There are major expectations that the incumbent president will run for the third term. The Venice Commission evaluated the Constitutional amendments allowing one person to run more than twice as a democratic setback. What is your message in this context?
I share totally the evaluation of the Venice Commission. The relation of ilham Alieyev with political power and his personal position towards it is obscene. I was the only international observer in the Referendum where all these changes towards a dynastic and personalistic conception of power started ten years ago and criticized it radically. But at that time not many people in the international community paid a lot of attention. All my fears came true. Unfortunately.
You told a Swiss paper that the Azerbaijan vote had been the most fraudulent amongst the ones you observed since 1994. What is the key obstacle to have free and fair election results in this country?
There is a general global lesson you can draw from the last 100 years: Where ever you have found a lot of petrol before democracy was established democracy will always have it very difficult. In Norway, the US, Canada or other the democracy is older than the richness of petrol. The oil wealth creates a especially cynic relation of the powerholders towards the basic values of democracy which makes it very difficult for it to develop. Today these basic (Basic freedoms of assembly, expression and association, free press, independent judiciary) elements are neither respected nor protected in AZ and that’s why all democrats and democracy itself has such a difficult start and take off.
You were accused of hostile attitude towards Azerbaijan and had to resign in 2006. What made you to give this decision? Why did you decide there was little else you could do?
I did not have to resign, I did this out of my own conviction and decision. Many people in AZ appreciated my work, many in the regime disliked it. I did not have the impression that I can help enough those peoples and those values I am committed to. That’s why I took over Serbia and later Russia and left the monitoring of AZ to others.
From whom did you feel more pressure – from Azerbaijani authorities or your colleagues in PACE?
From my colleagues in the Assembly I had absolutely no pressure. The one of the Azeri authorities was always there and normal. Pressure is not what motivates my decisions. Normally my resistance grows as much as the pressure I feel.
Over the recent years, less criticism is heard from the Council of Europe regarding Azerbaijan. A European NGO prepared a report «Caviar Diplomacy» claiming the authorities could silence the Council of Europe by expensive gifts. Do you agree?
Not really. The Caviar Diplomacy is only one element which influences only a few part of my colleagues. Much more essential is the ignorance of many others and the inability of too many to emancipate themselves from the oil dependent economy and from regimes who deliver them old fashion energy resources. And in the last years the burden organisations as the CoE has to shoulder is much bigger then what the CoE is able to carry. The Azeri people are one of the victims of this overload and our inability to carry and to match it.
Were you offered any gifts when you worked as co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan?
I often got small gifts. The caviar boxes I always gave to the secretaries. I gave counter gifts in form of my books or drawings. But these gifts may improve personal relations. They never should undermine the political commitment and engagement. In my case this was known to everybody involved.
One more addition, is it possible to add your recollections about Ramiz Mehdiyev, there were rumours that he turned you out of his office?
These rumours have no ground. I left his office always in the same civilised way as I have entered it. I always liked to meet him – much more than all the others who are working on his floor. With him you could discuss, exchange and learn eternally. We did this for hours and were mutually interested to listen to each other. We could also often agree to decide things, which made a difference for many political prisoner or other people in danger. I regret, that we have not seen us for such a long time.
What is your view of the recent video scandal featuring now a former parliamentarian bargaining over a parliament seat? The name of the top man in the Presidential Administration was referred in the video. What do you think of the law-enforcement's behaviour with regard to investigating this video?
I do not know enough from the background to be able to make a correct analyse in this case.
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