This is an edited version of a report prepared by A.Raufoglu form Washington DC. Original piece can be viewed
Last year it was hastily decided [upon Azerbaijani government’s request] that the OSCE mission to Azerbaijan would be downgraded. The Baku office adopted the mandate of a project coordinator. And as of March 1 2014, its new appointed coordinator was Ambassador Chahtatinsky, a French diplomat. Back then, not many of the OSCE members raised concerns about the issue although for the local advocates this meant fewer opportunities for transparency and democratic reforms.
However, last week, during the Organization’s Permanent Council meeting in Vienna, US representative to the OSCE, Ambassador Daniel Baer, voiced his concerns over Amb. Chahtatinsky’s activities since his appointment as the Project Coordinator on March 1, 2014.
In his speech at the Council, Baer urged Chahtatinsky to boost his personal efforts to reach out to and engage with civil society in Azerbaijan rather than appear in photos with the ruling family and the close government aide.
“I noted that the two photos of you were with President Aliyev and the foreign minister… There was no photo of you reading the Decalogue, there was no photo of you with civil society, and I would just like to remind you that, while consultation with the host government is certainly an important part of your work, you work for all of us, and you work for the principles that underlie this organization. Your masters are not the Government of Azerbaijan”, said he.
As Azerbaijan seeks to assume greater responsibility in the international community, the US “remains committed to working with Baku, and through the OSCE, to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to advance democratic development in the country,” Amb Baer stated, reminding that the OSCE Project coordinator in Baku has a “special responsibility to work with the people of Azerbaijan and to help the government uphold the organization’s principles, values, and commitments in all three dimensions – especially regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms – and to maintain and use strong contacts with civil society in this work.”
“The OSCE Project Coordinator mandate articulated in PC Decision 1092 explicitly calls on the office to “maintain contacts” with civil society – including outside the context of specific projects. We urge you to execute your mandate with this crucial role in mind. Efforts to restrict OSCE activities by limiting contacts with civil society, and an unduly restrictive project approval process in the Memorandum of Understanding, hinder the OSCE from providing valuable support to Azerbaijan and are unacceptable,” he said.
Ambassador reminded the audience as well as the head of the Baku office of Azerbaijani government’s continuous efforts to pressure independent media, NGOs, and the civil society activists. He highlighted several cases starting from opposition leaders Ilgar Mammadov, Tofig Yagublu and of Anar Mammadli, Chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center. He stressed how troubled the US remains with these on-going cases adding to the list Hasan Huseynli, Leyla Yunus, her husband, the journalist Rauf Mirkadirov as well as the Facebook activists, Elsever Mursalli, Abdul Abilov and Omar Mammadov. All of these cases “send a chilling message about the right to freely voice one’s opinion in Azerbaijan,” Amb. was quoted saying.
These individual cases were “yet another example of this disturbing pattern of repression of those seeking to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in our common OSCE commitments, including respect for freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and movement”, said Amb. Baer.