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Last updated 20 December 2012
Update: On October 16, 2012, an MP presented to the National Parliament draft amendments to the Law on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. The amendments provide for a dramatic increase in penalties against participants and organizers of protests not sanctioned by government. NGOs can be fined up to $38,000. In contrast to the aforementioned restrictive legislation, on November 29, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) announced that it submitted a draft law for the Government's approval to simplify reporting requirements. For more information, please see Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives.
Civil society in Azerbaijan has been developing dynamically since the country gained independence in 1991. Currently, there are more than 2,600 NGOs registered in the country, and an estimated 1,000 unregistered groups carrying out activities. NGOs are engaged in diverse spheres of activity, including human rights, education, culture, health, social protection, environmental protection, etc. The NGO sector received a significant boost in development when the 1992 Law on Non-Governmental Organizations was replaced by a much more progressive law in 2000.
In 2007, the Government of Azerbaijan established the NGO Support Council, with the goal to provide financial and informational support to Azerbaijani NGOs, and to facilitate NGO/government cooperation. The NGO Support Council has provided financial assistance to more than 500 NGOs, based on transparent and competitive grant procedures, which are considered among the best in the former Soviet Union. The NGO Support Council also initiates legislation to improve the regulatory environment for NGOs, and engages NGOs in the legislative drafting process.
In spite of these positive developments, registration remains a challenge for NGOs. It is very difficult to register as either a domestic or foreign NGO in Azerbaijan. The Government of Azerbaijan has lost at least five cases before the European Court of Human Rights, which has found denials of registration to violate the freedom of association. In addition, Azerbaijani NGOs have difficulty complying with financial reporting requirements. Many NGOs have limited capacity to comply with such requirements and are under threat of being punished for non-compliance.
|Organizational Forms||Public union, foundation and union of legal entities|
|Registration Body||Ministry of Justice
|Approximate Number||2612 registered NGOs (as of December 2010)|
|Barriers to Entry||Foreigners and stateless persons can be founders of an NGO in Azerbaijan if they have permanent residence.
Registration procedures are problematic, specifically due to centralized registration in Baku and the exercise of government discretion in denying applications.
|Barriers to Activities||There are broad powers of the Ministry of Justice to supervise NGOs and subsequently to dissolve them in court.
In the regions NGOs need to inform regional executive authorities about their events in advance.
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||No barriers|
|Barriers to International Contact||No barriers|
|Barriers to Resources||NGOs are required to provide an application letter and notarized copy of any grant agreement to the Ministry of Justice within 30 days of the date of the grant agreement.|
|Population||9,111,100 (2011 est. State Statistic Committee of Azerbaijan)|
|Type of Government||Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||male: 70.9 years
female: 76.1 years (2009 est. State Statistic Committee of Azerbaijan)
|Literacy Rate||98.8% (2010 est. US Department of State)|
|Religious Groups||Muslim 93.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox 2.3%, other 1.8% (State Statistic Committee of Azerbaijan)|
|Ethnic Groups||Azeri 90.6%, Lezgi 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5%, other 3.9% (1999 census) (CIA World Factbook)|
|GDP Per Capita||$10,900 (2010 est. State Statistic Committee of Azerbaijan)|
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||76 (2011)||1 – 182|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||21.8 (2010)||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||12.3 (2010)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||143 (2011)||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2010)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Failed States Index||68 (2012)||177 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Yes||1992|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||Yes||2001|
|Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (ICCPR-OP2)||Yes||1992|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||1992|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1992|
|Optional Protocol to The Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography||Yes||2002|
|Convention on the Political Rights of Women||Yes||1992|
|Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees||Yes||1992|
|Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War||Yes||1993|
|Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women||Yes||1995|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination||Yes||1996|
|Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid||Yes||1996|
|Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide||Yes||1996|
|Convention on the Non-applicability of Statutory Limitation to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity||Yes||1996|
|Convention on Slavery||Yes||1996|
|Protocol amending the Slavery Convention||Yes||1996|
|Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery||Yes||1996|
|Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others||Yes||1996|
|Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment||Yes||1996|
|Convention on Nationality of Married Woman||Yes||1996|
|Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness||Yes||1996|
|Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons||Yes||1996|
|Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages||Yes||1996|
|Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families||Yes||1998|
|Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons||Yes||2000|
|Convention on the Legal Status of Children Born out of Wedlock||Yes||2000|
|Framework convention for the protection of national minorities||Yes||2000|
|Convention Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour||Yes||2000|
|Convention on Legal and Civil Liability for Corruption||Yes||2003|
|Convention on Elimination of Discrimination in Education Sphere||Yes||2006|
|Key Regional Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|European Culture Convention||Yes||1997|
|European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes||Yes||2000|
|European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms||Yes||2001|
|European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment||Yes||2001|
|European Charter of Local Self-Government||Yes||2001|
|European Convention on Extradition||Yes||2002|
|European Convention on Criminal Liability for Corruption||Yes||2003|
|European Social Charter||Yes||2004|
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan was adopted on 12 November 1995 (and subsequently amended on 24 August 2002 and on 18 March 2009).
Relevant provisions include:
Article 26. Protection of rights and freedoms of a person and citizen
I. Everyone has the right to protect his/her rights and freedoms using means and methods not prohibited by law.
II. The state guarantees protection of rights and freedoms of all people.
Article 49. Freedom of assembly
Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly with others. Everyone has the right, having notified respective governmental bodies in advance, peacefully and without arms, to meet with other people, organize meetings, demonstrations, processions, place pickets.
Article 58. Right to associate
I. Everyone is free to associate with other people.
II. Everyone has the right to establish any union, including a political party, trade union and other public organization or to enter existing organizations. Unrestricted activity of all unions is ensured.
III. Nobody may be forced to join any union or remain its member.
IV. Activity of unions intended for the forcible overthrow of legal state power on the whole territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan or on a part thereof is prohibited. Activity of unions which violates the Constitution and laws might be stopped by decision of law court.
Article 60. Guarantee of rights and freedoms by court of law
I. Legal protection of rights and freedoms of every citizen is ensured.
II. Everyone may appeal to law court regarding decisions and activity (or inactivity) of state bodies, political parties, trade unions, other public organizations and officials.
Article 151. Legal value of international acts
Whenever there is disagreement between normative-legal acts in legislative system of the Republic of Azerbaijan (except Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and acts accepted by way of referendum) and international agreements wherein the Republic of Azerbaijan is one of the parties, provisions of international agreements shall dominate.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:
- The Constitution of Republic of Azerbaijan, 12 November 1995 (subsequently amended on 24 August 2002 and on 18 March 2009);
- The Civil Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan (28 December 1999, with subsequent amendments);
- The Law on Non-Governmental Organizations (Public Associations and Foundations) (13 June 2000, with subsequent amendments);
- The Law on the State Registration and State Register of Legal Entities (12 December 2003, with subsequent amendments);
- The Concept of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan (27 July 2007);
- Regulations on the Council of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (13 December 2007);
- The Tax Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan (11 July 2000, with subsequent amendments);
Code on Administrative Offences of the Republic of Azerbaijan (11 July 2000, with subsequent amendments);
- Labour Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1 February 1999, with subsequent amendments);
- The Law on Grants (April 1998, with subsequent amendments);
- The Law on Obtaining Information (30 September 2005);
- The Order of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan #376 on International Humanitarian Organizations and their Representatives Offices in the Republic of Azerbaijan (2 November 1994, with subsequent amendments);
- The Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Procedures of Registration of Grant Agreements (February 2004);
- The Law on State Fees (4 December 2001, with subsequent amendments);
- The Law on Voluntary Activity (9 June 2009); and
- Rules on Conducting Negotiations for Preparation and Signing of an Agreement for the State Registration of Branches or Representative Offices of International Non-governmental Organizations in the Republic of Azerbaijan (16 March 2011).
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
On November 29, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) announced that it submitted a draft law for the Government's approval to simplify reporting requirements for NGOs that would:
- Include a provision exempting NGOs with no revenue during the reporting year from the obligation to submit financial reports, provided the NGO sends the MoF a letter from the tax inspection confirming that the NGO had no revenue during the reporting year. (Previously, NGOs were required to submit financial reports even when they had zero revenue);
- Include a provision enabling NGOs whose annual income is less than 5000 AZN (approximately 6,378$) to submit only two reports instead of the five that are currently required;
- Allow NGOs to submit their financial reports online through the MoF's webpage.
The MoF's draft law does not guarantee that the law will be changed, but it is likely these proposals will be approved by the Government and adopted by the Parliament during the spring 2013 session. NGOs that fall undr the 5,000 manat threshold will be able to start using simplified reporting during the next reporting period (by April 1, 2013), with or without enactment of legislative changes.
On October 16, 2012, an MP presented to the National Parliament draft amendments to the Law on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Violations. The amendments to the Law on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly would provide for a dramatic increase in penalties against participants and organizers of protests not sanctioned by government. According to the proposed changes, a participant of an unauthorized assembly could be fined from $630 to $1,260 (previously $8 to $15). For the organizers of the protest, the penalty could be from $1,900 to $3,800, while if the organizer is a legal person, such as a political party or an NGO, it could be fined from $19,000 to $38,000.
The Draft Law on Social Order, which was included on the Parliamentary agenda on October 2, 2012, would provide a mechanism through which NGOs can receive funding from the state budget. Also pending is the Draft Law on Citizen Participation, which would create mechanisms for greater government cooperation with NGOs.
On March 14, 2012 Milli Majlis (Parliament) passed a law on amendments to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan which introduced a new chapter concerning the liability of legal entities, including non-governmental organizations. There are concerns that this new law will provide the government with another means to crack down on civil society. According to the new provisions, criminal liability can be applied to legal entities for criminal acts of its officials committed "in favor of a legal entity or in order to protect its interests, (article 99-4.1)." Furthermore criminal law measures can be applied to legal entities for the commission of crimes of trafficking, forced labor, false entrepreneurship, money laundering, intentional usage of criminally obtained funds and other property, terrorism financing, computer information related crimes (including unauthorized access, creation of malicious software), abuse of official powers, receiving bribes, paying bribes, improperly influencing officials (clientelism), official fraud, disseminating confidential information on victims of trafficking, dissemination of information of fight with money laundering or terrorism financing. The following penalties can be applied to legal entities:
- Fines reaching 200,000 AZN or fivefold amount of the damage caused (or revenue obtained) by the criminal activities;
- Special confiscation of property;
- Deprivation of the right of a legal entity to be engaged in certain activity; or
- Liquidation of a legal entity.
These provisions will enter into force once the relevant changes are introduced into the Code on Execution of Penalties and Criminal-Procedure. The law is available in Azeri and in an official English translation.
According to the press, on February 20, 2012, there were discussions in the Parliament to introduce changes to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the criminal liability of legal entities (including NGOs). The changes were allegedly initiated by President Aliyev and were introduced to the Parliament by Ali Huseynli, the Chair of the Legal Policy and State Building Committee of the Parliament. The changes will enforce new penalties, special confiscations, confiscation of properties of legal entities and liquidation of legal entities. Mr. Huseynli noted that the changes are required by international conventions that were signed by Azerbaijan. Draft changes have been presented to the Plenary Session of the Parliament.
On February 9, 2012 at a forum called "The Tax System in Azerbaijan: Realities and Perspectives," the Minister of Taxation, Fazil Mammadov, said that public discussion of the Tax Code with the country's leading experts in taxation, business representatives, and relevant government agencies had started in January and February. He said, "We believe that by working closely with public organizations and the business community in the process of improving the tax legislation and by studying their proposals, we will be able to make certain changes in tax legislation in the medium run." Minister Mammadov also said that the ministry is open to new ideas and innovations and stands ready to extend dialogue and partnership relations to international organizations and business circles and to support each step and idea in that direction.
On December 22, 2011, the concept on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was opened for public discussion. Many CSOs have expressed concerns that (1) no separate law on CSR is needed and that (2) a separate law may easily be used to restrict CSR, by, for example, imposing a new tax in the form of obligatory contributions for philanthropic ends. As an alternative, some have proposed introducing a 5% tax deduction for cash and in-kind contributions made by legal entities and individuals.
Other draft laws initiated by the NGO Support Council include the following:
- On Social Orders;
- On Professional Associations; and
- On Citizen’s Participation.
Furthermore, there is a law on charity, which was prepared by a group of CSOs in Azerbaijan and has been pending in the Parliament since 2007.
The legislation of Azerbaijan uses both the terms “non-governmental organization” (NGO) and “non-commercial organization” (NCO). The Civil Code defines a non-commercial legal entity as one whose main purpose is not generating profit and which does not distribute profit among its members. Such entities include public unions, foundations, and unions of legal entities. The Law on Non-Governmental Organizations sets out the legal framework for public unions and foundations.
The available forms of NCOs are defined as follows:
A public union is a voluntary, self-governed, non-governmental organization, established on the initiative of several physical and/or legal persons, joined on the basis of common interests. The purposes, as defined in the constituent documents, should not be aimed primarily at gaining profit and profit shall not be distributed among its members. (Article 2.1 of NGO Law)
A foundation is a non-governmental organization without members, established by one or several physical and/or legal persons through the contribution of property, and aimed at social, charitable, cultural, educational or other public interest work. (Article 2.2 of NGO Law)
Unions of legal entities are associations of legal entities, where the founding legal entities may either be commercial organizations or NCOs. Such unions may be formed in order to coordinate activities and to represent and protect (e.g., before state and other bodies, international organizations) their common interests (including property interests). (Articles 117.1, 117.2 of Civil Code).
The vast majority of the more than 2600 registered NGOs in Azerbaijan are public unions.
Public Benefit Status
The Tax Code defines a charitable organization as a “non-commercial organization which conducts charitable activities.” (Art. 13.2.36 of the Tax Code) The Tax Code defines charitable activity as “activity performed by a natural person and/or charity organization, which consists of rendering direct assistance, to include the transfer of monies, without compensation, to physical persons in need of material or other assistance (aid), or to organizations and charitable organizations that directly provide such assistance (aid), including charity organizations, or scientific, educational or other activities performed in the public interest, except where otherwise stipulated in this Code.” (Art. 13.2.35 of the Tax Code)
The Tax Code provides that “charitable organizations” are exempt from the profits tax, except with respect to income received from entrepreneurial activities. There is, however, no procedure for obtaining the status of charitable organization; hence it is practically impossible to take advantage of this exemption. (Article 106.1.1 of the Tax Code) No laws in Azerbaijan address the “charitable organization” status as defined in the Tax Code. In addition, no objective procedures exist in the Tax Code or elsewhere for identifying an organization as “charitable” on the basis of its intended and/or actual activities. As a result, it is quite difficult to determine with any certainty which NCOs might be eligible for this benefit, or how an NCO might go about claiming the benefit. It is equally unclear whether an organization must conduct only charitable activities in order to qualify for this status, or, alternatively, whether any NCO that conducts charitable activities (in addition to other non-charitable activities) may qualify. (Charity in Azerbaijan: Prospects for Developing Legislation and Practice, M. Guluzade and N. Bourjaily)
There is a special procedure for the registration of “international humanitarian organizations and other branches of foreign entities engaged in charitable activities.” In order for such an organization to commence its activities in Azerbaijan, it must obtain consent of the Cabinet of Ministers, which would provide a basis for registration with the Ministry of Justice. Domestic NGOs do not need such approval in order to register with the Ministry of Justice.
Barriers to Entry
Azerbaijani legislation allows for the establishment and existence of informal associations (Article 15 of NGO Law); moreover, in practice unregistered (unincorporated) NGOs are not persecuted.
The founders of an NGO may include legal persons (except state bodies and local self-governments) or physical persons who have reached the age of 18 (physical persons reaching the age of 16 may be the founders of youth public unions). Foreigners and stateless persons may serve as founders of an NGO if they have permanent residence in Azerbaijan. There are no restrictions preventing foreigners and stateless persons from becoming members or assistants* of NGOs.
*NGO assistants include physical and legal persons (excluding governmental bodies) who participate in the NGO's work, subject to its charter, and provide any assistance or services, without making their relationship with the NGO official.
Registration is available only in the capital Baku, which creates problems for NGOs that are founded in rural areas, as they must travel to Baku to apply for registration and/or submit missing documents.
The Registration Law of Azerbaijan provides an exhaustive list of reasons for denial of registration of a legal entity, including an NGO. The permissible grounds for denial include the following: when another organization has been registered under the same name; when documents submitted for registration of an NGO contradict the Constitution, the Registration Law, and other Azerbaijani laws; when the goals, purposes and forms of activities of the NGO contradict legislation; or when an NGO does not correct all deficiencies in its submitted registration documents within 20 days after the Ministry of Justice returns them. (Article 11.3 of the Registration Law, 12 December 2003) Regulatory officials reviewing registration applications have exercised broad discretion in applying the grounds for denial. This has led to unwarranted denials of registration of NGOs and resulted in judgments against Azerbaijan in the European Court of Human Rights.
The state fee of 11 AZN ($14) must be paid at the time of registration of a public union. For registration of a foundation, a minimum deposit of 10,000 AZN ($12,700) must be paid as initial capital; this sum can be withdrawn if the Ministry of Justice does not register the foundation.
Due to changes to the Code of Administrative Offences in January 2012, NGO registration applicants are now subject to a penalty for providing false information during the registration process. The new penalty is fixed at 4000 manats (more than 5100 USD). The law does not define the term "false information".
Barriers to Operational Activity
Azerbaijani law erects a number of barriers to the operational activity of NGOs:
- There are serious financial penalties for violating legislation and it is unclear when and why the maximum amount of these penalties would be imposed. For example, the failure to register a grant agreement with the Ministry of Justice may be penalized in an amount ranging from 1000-2500 AZN; the margin is very broad and is applied in a discretionary manner.
- All bank operations on sums received as grants are banned unless the NGO registers such grant agreements with the Ministry of Justice.
- The law entrusts the Ministry of Justice with broad powers to supervise NGOs and to issue warning letters. According to the law, if an NGO receives two warnings within a year, the Ministry may initiate involuntary dissolution through the court.
In the regions outside the capital, NGOs are expected to seek approval of the regional executive authorities in order to conduct their events, despite there being no such requirement in the law.
- According to Article 2.4 of the NGO Law, “A non-governmental organization may not participate in presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections of the Azerbaijan Republic, and it may not provide financial and other material assistance to political parties.”
- Legal entities, including NGOs, are subject to criminal penalties ranging from fines of up to 200,000 AZN or five times the amount of damage caused (or revenue obtained) by the criminal activities, special confiscation of property, deprivation of the right of a legal entity to be engaged in certain activities, or liquidation of the legal entity.
- According to a presidential decree, the State Committee for Statistics is responsible for receiving statistical reports “with regard to labor protection, labor conditions and on the results of the measures taken to adapt them to the existing norms” that the owners of property and employers are obliged to provide “within time and in the manner determined by the State Committee for Statistics.” Changes were made to the Code of the Administrative Offenses that establish fines for the “non-provision” of these reports ranging “from 1000 to 2000 Azerbaijani manats.” This is a serious penalty which is also applicable to NGOs.
- There are barriers on receiving information. Almost all requests for information regardless of content can be charged an arbitrary fee in advance. In addition, rules do not specify under what standard the conclusion of a contract to receive information may be refused, and why requests must provide such extensive information about how the information will be used.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
Article 47 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan provides that “Everyone may enjoy freedom of thought and speech.” Generally, Azerbaijani legislation does not limit NGO participation in framing and debating issues of public policy. In practice there are no barriers to speech for NGOs.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no legal barriers to international communication and contact.
Barriers to Resources
While there are no special permits required to receive foreign funding, NGOs are required to provide an application letter and notarized copy of any grant agreement to the Ministry of Justice within 30 days of the date of the grant agreement. In practice, the failure to apply to the Ministry does not limit NGO access to the foreign funding, but may subject NGOs to administrative penalties of between 1000 AZN ($1250) to 2500 AZN ($3125), in accordance with Article 223-1.1 of the Administrative Code.
In addition, a practical problem arises when an NGO signs a grant agreement with foreign donors. Such agreements are usually in English and usually do not bear a seal. In order to submit a copy of the agreement to the Ministry, however, the agreement must be officially translated and notarized. Notaries in Azerbaijan usually refuse to notarize a document that lacks a seal.
NCOs may engage in economic activities. Profit from the economic activities of NCOs, including charities, is generally taxed in the same manner as for commercial organizations.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Universal Periodic Review: Azerbaijan (2009)|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||2010 Human Rights Reports: Azerbaijan|
|U.S. State Department||Azerbaijan: Report 2011|
|Failed States Index Reports||2012 Foreign Policy Failed States Index|
|Amnesty International||AI Report 2011: Azerbaijan|
|Human Rights Watch||HRW Report 2012: Azerbaijan|
|International Federation for Human Rights||Human Rights Azerbaijan|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library||Azerbaijan|
Mood darkens in Baku amid crackdown on civil society (January 2013)
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns a recent wave of crackdown on dissent and calls on the government to end media and NGO witch hunt. Less than a year before the Azerbaijanis are to elect new president, groups that have played key roles in the promotion of fair and transparent elections, could be paralyzed by a new draft bill before parliament that would further restrict non-governmental organizations.
PACE rapporteurs express concerns about freedom of assembly and expression in Azerbaijan (November 2012)
The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Azerbaijan, Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC), visited Baku from 26 to 28 November 2012 in order to assess the progress made by the country towards fulfilling its obligations and commitments to the Council of Europe.
Azerbaijani MP: NGOs’ state funding should be increased (November 2012)
It has been proposed to increase the state funds allocated to non-government organizations to protect Azerbaijan's national interests. The Chairman of the Council of State Support to NGOs under the Azerbaijani President, MP Azay Guliyev, made this proposal while discussing the state budget for the next year. He added that the Azerbaijani President authorized the Council this year to finance the projects of foreign NGOs.
Can Facebook become substitute for live opposition protests? (November 2012)
They’ve battled police in the streets and they’ve challenged authority the courts. Now, faced with staggering increases in fines for unauthorized demonstrations, Azerbaijani opposition activists are turning to Facebook to get their messages out. A November 10 amendment to the Law on Freedom of Assembly hiked penalties for participation in unsanctioned protests nearly eighty-fold from a mere seven to 13 manats ($9-$16) to a hefty 500 to 1,000 manats ($637-$1,275).
Ahead of Presidential elections in 2013 Azerbaijani government proposes to toughen legislation on public protests (November 2012)
Following the “unauthorized actions” held in Baku on October 20, lawmakers in Azerbaijan are contemplating tougher penalties which they claim will encourage a greater sense of responsibility by activists and protect human rights. The parliamentary committees for “Legal Policy and State building” and “Human Rights” held a joint session on October 23 to discuss amending the legislation surrounding freedom of assembly in the country. Members of Parliament are concerned that these so-called “unauthorised actions” have been on the rise in recent years in Azerbaijan, and have a negative impact on Azerbaijan’s international image. This trend, the lawmakers argue, is likely a result of the fact that the penalties just are not a big enough deterrent for protesters.
New Azerbaijani law on unsanctioned public gatherings (November 2012)
Azerbaijan's parliament has adopted amendments to the law on public gatherings which significantly increase fines for illegal demonstrations. The fines have been increased to up to $10,000 for organizing or participating in unsanctioned public gatherings. Before, the maximum fine was $640.
OSCE appreciates Azerbaijani authorities’ readiness for dialogue on freedom of speech (November 2012)
OSCE representative on freedom of the media Dunja Mijatovic highly appreciates the Azerbaijani authorities' readiness for a dialogue in the area of freedom of speech. She made the statement at a press conference in Baku that, "We discussed the issues of freedom of speech with journalists, representatives of civil society and the Azerbaijani authorities." Mijatovic took part in the International Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the discussions on security of online media and their staff.
Azerbaijani parliament adopts tougher legislation on unauthorized rallies (October 2012)
The Committee of the Azerbaijani Parliament on Legal Policy and State Building approved and sent to the plenary session of the Parliament the amendments to the legislation increasing punishment for participation in unauthorized protest actions. The amendments will be made to the Law on Freedom of Assembly, the Code of Administrative Offences (CAO), and the Criminal Code (CC).
Joint submission outlines concerns related the CSO environment in Azerbaijan for UPR (October 2012)
The joint submission by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Center for National and International Studies (CNIS) outlines concerns related to the environment in which civil society organizations and human rights defenders operate in Azerbaijan, and discusses threats they face in the exercise of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
Cabinet of Ministers adopts rules that hinder access to information (July 2012)
On July 27, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a decision on "List of information services provided with payment" that confirms regulations on access to information that impose arbitrary fees and delays. These rules are a barrier towards access to information.
President promulgates changes to the law “on commercial secrets” (July 2012)
On July 9 and 10, the President promulgated changes to the law “on commercial secrets” to the tax code, and to the law "on state registration and state registry of legal entities" that deny public access to information about founders and members of commercial legal entities and their shares (these laws were adopted by Parliament on June 12, 2012). According to Article 202 of the Criminal Code, “unlawful receiving and disclosure of information constituting a commercial or banking secret” is punishable with a fine of one hundred to five hundred manats (USD 126-631), or correctional labor for up to one year, or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Azerbaijan scores 4.7 out of 7 on USAID “CSOSI” (July 2012)
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released the 15th edition of its Non-Governmental Sustainability Index (NGOSI) – now called the Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI). The CSO Sustainability Index score for Azerbaijan is 4.7 of 7.
“Non-provision” of statistical reports means new penalties applicable to NGOs (June 2012)
According to a Decree signed by the President of Azerbaijan on June 19, the State Committee for Statistics will now have the power to receive statistical reports “with regard to labor protection, labor conditions and on the results of the measures taken to adapt them to the existing norms” that the owners of property and employers are obliged to provide “within time and in the manner determined by the State Committee for Statistics”. Changes have been made to the Code of the Administrative Offenses that establish fines for the “non-provision” of these reports. This is another serious penalty which is applicable also to NGOs.
Crackdown in Azerbaijan after the 2012 Eurovision contest (July 2012)
Human Rights NGOs have expressed grave concern regarding arrests, detentions and the inhuman treatment targeting human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition figures in Azerbaijan. Repressive practices have intensified against activists who took part in the "Sing for Democracy" campaign on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012.
Top official: Most issues raised by NGOs fully coincide with Azerbaijani government’s policy (July 2012)
Proposals made by the representatives of NGOs on most issues were constructive, and most of the issues fully coincide with the government's policy, says Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Social and Political Department Head Ali Hasanov.
Azerbaijani civil society condemns proposed amendments to draft laws on Freedom of Information (June 2012)
Civil society groups in Azerbaijan have condemned proposed amendments to draft laws on freedom of information. In a statement, a number of local civil society members stated: “As representatives of Azerbaijani civil society, we consider the draft amendments entailing restrictive provisions to the law ‘on access to information,’ which shall legally conceal information on founders and owners of legal entities, as a serious threat to the freedoms of expression and information in Azerbaijan. We express our grave concerns regarding the capacity of these laws to foster an environment conducive to the growth of corruption, and a widening of the gap between the public and the ruling elite….’”
Increased support needed for civil society in Azerbaijan after Eurovision contest (May 2012)
Global civil society network CIVICUS and the Azerbaijani CSO the Center for National and International Studies (CNIS) are deeply concerned about the safety of Azeri civil society activists who raised awareness of human rights violations during the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, held last month in Baku, Azerbaijan.
One-stop shop for registration of NGOs and Civil Society Concept suggested in Azerbaijan (May 2012)
Gubad Ibadoglu, chairman of the Center for Public Initiatives, said that one of the important issues to be covered is the adoption of the Civil Society Development Concept for its further submission for consideration of the country’s government."The forum will also endorse the main document - "Civil society in Azerbaijan: national agenda for changes". The National Agenda consists of four parts - registration of non-governmental organizations, activity of NGOs, economic activity and taxation of NGOs and public participation in decision-making," he said.
European Parliament resolution on Azerbaijan mentions pressure on NGOs (May 2012)
On 24 May 2012 the European Parliament adopted a resolution “on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.” Among other things the Resolution refers to the commitment of the Republic of Azerbaijan to creating a democratic state based on human rights, and notes that “the overall human rights situation in Azerbaijan has steadily deteriorated over the last few years.” The Resolution notes “growing pressure on and intimidation of NGOs” and calls for release of imprisoned NGO leaders and activists.
Venice Commission expresses views on Azerbaijan's NGO law (April 2012)
The expert council at the Conference of International Non-Commercial Organizations and the CE Venice Commission expressed an opinion on the draft proposed amendments to the Azerbaijani law on 'NGOs' adopted in 2009. The Venice Commission believes that despite the recent improvement in several aspects of the legal status of non-governmental organizations in Azerbaijan, the changes proposed to the law in 2009 and the decree of 2011 still have some shortcomings and do not meet international standards.
Law on Social Service set to enter into force in June 2012 (March 2012)
On March 15, 2012 the Law on Social Service was promulgated by the President and it will enter into force three months from the date of promulgation. The final text was adopted during the third reading on December 30, 2011 and has several changes that affect NGOs. Now the list of subjects that provide social services includes state bodies (alongside legal entities and natural persons). In addition, the state's "duty to expand cooperation with NGOs" is not a duty to "support NGOs in providing social services to persons that are in need of such support."