On October 25, 2005, President Ilham Aliyev of the Republic of Azerbaijan issued an Executive Order “On Urgent Measures in Connection with Preparation and Conducting of Elections to Milli Majilis [Parliament] of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” in which, among other recommendations, the President called for the Milli Majilis to consider the question of removal of the ban on observation in the presidential, parliament and municipality elections for NGOs which generate more than 30% of funding from foreign persons or from joint ventures with a foreign share over 30% in the charter capital.1
ICNL commends the President on the positive recommendations contained in the Decree and in particular on the decision of the President to support Parliamentary consideration of removal of this restrictive provision from the Law of the Azerbaijan Republic on NGOs. President Aliyev’s recommendation is consistent with the commitments made by the Republic of Azerbaijan as part of its membership in the Council of Europe as well as with international best practices with regard to NGO participation in election monitoring.
The 30% ban is inconsistent with accepted international norms, in particular those set forth in Article 8 of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE (“Copenhagen Document”)2, which applies to Azerbaijan as a member state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as other pertinent international documents protecting the freedom of association and political rights.3 Therefore, consistent with its duties as a member state of the Council of Europe and the OSCE and the recommendation of President Aliyev, Azerbaijan should amend its Law on NGOs to permit all non-governmental organizations, including those which receive foreign funding, to conduct observation activities during elections.
The relevant provision in the Law of the Republic on Azerbaijan on Non-governmental Organizations (2000) currently states as follows:4
2.4 Non-governmental organizations are not authorized to participate in presidential elections, elections to Millei Majilis of the Republic of Azerbaijan and municipalities, and to provide financial and material support to political parties. In compliance with the elections legislation of the Azerbaijan Republic Non-governmental Organizations (excluding foreign physical and legal persons, NGOs receiving grants from legal persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan who have more than 30% share in charter capital which belongs to foreign physical and legal persons, or who finance them in a different manner) can observe presidential elections, elections to Milli Majilis of the Republic of Azerbaijan and municipalities. An NGO may, in compliance with the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan and its charter, propose changes on improving legal normative acts.
The President’s recommendation for this amendment to the Law on NGOs has not yet been adopted by the Azerbaijan Parliament, and is currently under consideration. Therefore, ICNL calls on Azerbaijani civil society and the international community to rally its support behind the President’s recommendation.
ICNL is currently preparing a more detailed overview of the relevant international practices which will be available shortly.
1 The full English text of the Executive Order may be found at: http://www.cec.gov.az/en/common/orders/order3.htm.
2 According to Article 8 of the Copenhagen Document (1990), “[p]participating States consider that the presence of observers, both foreign and domestic, can enhance the electoral process for States in which elections are taking place. They therefore invite observers from any other CSCE participating States and any appropriate private institutions and organizations who may wish to do so to observe the course of their national election proceedings, to the extent permitted by law.”
3 These include, but are not limited to: Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 17 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
4 The translation provided is unofficial.