TODAY.AZ / Politics

Human Rights Watch criticizes Azerbaijan in its Annual Report

20 January 2006 [00:05] - TODAY.AZ
The annual report of the U.S. nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized Azerbaijan.

It reports that repression and harassment of opposition party members, overwhelmingly pro-government bias in electronic media, and governmental control of election commissions ensured that the 2005 parliamentary elections would not be free and fair, keeping with Azerbaijan's history of seriously flawed elections, Turan reported today.

HRW reports that the government's registration of candidates without a party-based bias was an improvement on previous elections; "unfortunately, this step was later overshadowed by instances of serious violations." The report continues that measures taken to improve the election process, such as marking voters' fingers with invisible ink to prevent multiple voting and lifting a ban on monitoring by foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), "proved ineffective because they were introduced late into the election campaign."

"Government officials exerted pressure on government workers, particularly teachers, to attend voter-candidate meetings held by candidates of Yeni Azerbaijan, the ruling party. At the same time, the police detained campaign workers for opposition and independent candidates and warned them to stop their political work. The timing and circumstances surrounding two separate alleged coup d'etats by opposition groups raised serious concerns that the government was using these cases to increase repression against the opposition and to influence the elections.

Based on coup d'etat allegations, the government arrested three youth movement members and about a dozen high-level government officials and opposition supporters, accusing them of preparing a coup d'etat," the report said.

"Election Day was marred by numerous irregularities throughout the country. Local and international observers documented serious violations, including ballot box stuffing, repeat voting, and tampering with results of protocols,” said HRW. “At the time of writing the HRW annual report, authorities had responded to international calls to rectify election falsifications by canceling results in several election districts, firing several local officials, and detaining four others."

HRW also reported about the United States policy toward Azerbaijan. It reports that the United States policy toward Azerbaijan has focused on military cooperation and oil interests. "Since 2001, U.S. military aid and cooperation has increased significantly, and Azerbaijan has cooperated in U.S. military operations, sending approximately 150 troops to Iraq. Although the U.S. government criticized the parliamentary elections and put pressure on Azerbaijan to investigate and rectify incidents of falsification on Election Day itself, its response to pre-election violations was inconsistent and sometimes weak," the report said.

/Baku Today/


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