DE RUEHKB #0543 1621253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101253Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5462
INFO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 0968
UNCLAS BAKU 000543
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/RPM AND DRL
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM OSCE AJ SUBJECT: AZERBAIJAN: INPUT FOR OSCE HUMAN DIMENSION MEETING
REF: A. STATE 60838
B. BAKU 524
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