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Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on human rights defenders

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in its Resolution 1891 (2012) calls on the member States of the Council of Europe to “ensure observance of fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders and put an end to any administrative, fiscal or judicial harassment of human rights defenders.”

“Even though the resolution has no legal power, it indicates a clear direction for safeguarding the rights of human rights defenders” – says Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, coordinator of the HFHR project Europe of Human Rights. “The resolution puts emphasis on the need to create an enabling work environment for human rights defenders, especially appropriate infrastructures and assistance programmes for defenders at risk” – adds Bychawska-Siniarska.

In recent months, the Foundation made repetitive appeals regarding the situation of human rights defenders, e.g. in Azerbaijan. HFHR drew special attention to the case of an Azerbaijani organisation, the Human Rights House, a member of the international Human Rights House Network. By the decision of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice , the Human Rights House was removed from the register of organisations. The decision was based on the amendment to a 2009 law which required that international non-governmental organisations operating in Azerbaijan obtain a permit to conduct their operations from the state authorities.

Provisions governing the legal requirements that non-governmental organisations have to satisfy to operate in Azerbaijan have also been subject to a review of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission. In its opinion, the Commission argues that requirements set out in the act on non-governmental organisations fail to meet the European standards. The registration procedure is excessively lengthy and overly complex. There is also a minimum capital requirement of approx. EUR 9,000. Additionally, the proceedings are centralised (everything is settled at the Ministry of Justice seat in Baku, even though the Ministry has a network of regional offices).

“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expresses its willingness to pursue cooperation with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights aiming at the implementation of the provisions of the resolution” – says Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska. “We will continue to monitor the situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States” – adds Bychawska-Siniarska.

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