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08BAKU543 2008-06-10 12:53:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Baku
Cable title:  

AZERBAIJAN: INPUT FOR OSCE HUMAN DIMENSION MEETING

Tags:   PREL PHUM KDEM OSCE AJ 
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1. (SBU) As requested ref a, the Embassy offers our thoughts
on areas of concern in Azerbaijan's human rights performance
that could be discussed with the GOAJ in the run-up to the
September 29 - October 10 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation
Meeting (HDIM), in hopes of securing greater progress.
Azerbaijan's upcoming presidential election, scheduled for
October 15, presents an important opportunity for the GOAJ to
demonstrate its commitment to democratic reform. Key steps -
particularly in the area of media freedom, freedom of
assembly and freedom of association - are needed to ensure a
free and fair pre-election environment. Implementation of
recent amendments to the law on freedom of assembly and
unified electoral code (ref b) will be an important
benchmark. Specific suggestions are outlined in para 2.



2. (SBU) Suggested points for a pre-HDIM demarche to the
GOAJ:

- Azerbaijan's October 15 presidential election presents an
important opportunity for the Azerbaijani Government to
demonstrate its commitment to democratic reform. The
pre-election climate ) particularly with respect to media
freedom, candidate access to the media, freedom of assembly,
and freedom of association ) is just as important to the
conduct of the election as the actual voting and vote
tabulation process.

- We continue to be concerned by the poor media environment
in Azerbaijan. We urge your government to send a strong
signal of its commitment to media freedom, for example by
issuing a statement indicating that violence against
journalists will not be tolerated, and renewing the
moratorium on criminal libel suits. We also urge your
government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for
violence against journalists.

- Candidate access to the media will be particularly
important in the run-up to the October presidential election.
Recent amendments to the electoral code provided free air
time for candidates on public television; we hope that this
provision will be implemented in a transparent and equitable
fashion.

- Azerbaijan's parliament recently amended its law on freedom
of assembly; we hope that this important piece of legislation
will be implemented in a way that enables citizens to better
exercise their fundamental human rights.

- Freedom of association also is important. We urge your
government to ensure that all political party leaders are
allowed to travel abroad and domestically to conduct normal
party activities, including attending political rallies and
meetings.

- A strong international and domestic observation mission
will support your government's goal of holding a free and
fair election on October 15. Your government has a long and
successful record in this area, including election
observation work conducted by the Election Monitoring Center
(EMC).

- We were disappointed by your government's recent decision
to deregister and annul the Election Monitoring Center. We
hope that your government can work with the EMC to address
the technical issues that prompted this decision, and ensure
that EMC is able to conduct its election observation
activities. We also hope that other domestic observation
organizations will be allowed to conduct their work.
LU