Aliyev Will Try to Pursue More Balanced Internal Politics in 2018
In 2017 inner-political developments in Azerbaijan became a logical continuation of developments in 2016. As a result of the constitutional changes, at the beginning of the year Aliev appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as the first vice-president of the country. It should be noted that, according to the changes made in the Constitution of Azerbaijan, the vice-president’s institution was created, and the person who assumed that position replaces the president during his absence. Therefore, Mehriban Aliyeva’s appointment to this post became another step to concentrate the country’s power in the hands of the Aliyev family.
Among the steps to strengthen their power, we should also consider the emergence of a new “black list” which includes those who “dare” to criticize the situation in human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan.
In the year of 2017, restrictions on the liberties of activists and journalists continued. Recently, about 400 people have been detained in Azerbaijan suspected of cooperating with Armenian intelligence services. The arrested people – dozens of servicemen, one shepherd and other civilians – were from the Aghdam region. Later, the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration ordered the media to remove all their publications on this case.
In parallel with this, 2017 was quite full of the criticism of the international community regarding the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The scandalous disclosure published by the Guardian newspaper on bribing European partners by the Azerbaijani authorities, or, as many claimed, the disclosure of the Azerbaijani laundry raised a new wave of criticism from the international community towards Azerbaijan. Some western officials even made a call to impose sanctions on Azerbaijan.
Criticism was followed by PACE President Pedro Agramunt’s impeachment, who was one of the active actors in Azerbaijan’s “caviar diplomacy”, and then adoption of two resolutions on Azerbaijan by the PACE. The resolution on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan not only mentions the deteriorating situation with human rights in Azerbaijan, but also calls for immediate implementation of the ECHR decisions, reconsidering the cases of political prisoners.
Regarding the resolution on Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in the Council of Europe in 2014, it stresses that Azerbaijan’s presidency in the Council of Europe was combined with the unprecedented human rights abuses in the country towards dozens of human rights activists who cooperated with the Council of Europe.
Following the adoption of resolutions on Azerbaijan by the PACE, an unprecedented legal process against Azerbaijan was launched by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe as a result of non-compliance with the ECHR judgment in the case of Azerbaijani oppositionist Ilgar Mamedov.
It should be noted that before the beginning of such a process, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe published an interim report which demanded Azerbaijan to explain why the ECHR judgment was not brought to life in the case of Ilgar Mamedov.
Although Mamedov is not in freedom yet, Azerbaijani authorities already announced the possibility of releasing Mamedov. In parallel, it should be recalled that the failure to comply with the requirement of the CoE Committee of Ministers will lead to the cessation of Azerbaijan’s membership to the Council of Europe, which does not stem from the interests of Azerbaijan, despite the statements from the highest level that Azerbaijan is ready to break ties with the Council of Europe.
The recent criticisms by the international community, of course, are important, but not enough. It is important that the West’s new policy towards Azerbaijan includes clear actions that will undermine the atmosphere of impunity created by the Azerbaijani authorities.
As for the possible developments in 2018, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that presidential elections are expected in Azerbaijan. The Aliyev clan will try to avoid criticism from the international community on the one hand, and on the other hand, it will try to deviate the attention of its own and international community from the situation in the country and avoid the wave of dissatisfaction within the country.