Head of Council of Europe Jagland Calls for Investigation into “Azerbaijan Laundromat”

The head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, called for unprecedented legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release a political prisoner in defiance of the European court on human rights.

Jagland’s intervention centers on opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov, who was jailed for organizing and taking part in demonstrations in 2013. Judges at the ECHR found he was jailed for criticizing Azerbaijani authorities but the government has refused to release him.

At a meeting of Council of Europe ambassadors last Wednesday (Sept. 13), Jagland called for the launch of legal proceedings against Azerbaijan for flouting ECHR court judgements – an unprecedented step in the 68 year history of the Council of Europe.

“We cannot have political prisoners in Europe and we cannot have a situation in which Azerbaijan continues to deprive Mammadov of his liberty against the judgement of the highest court – which clearly stated his arrest and detention were arbitrary,” Jagland said in a statement released to the Guardian. “The time has come for Azerbaijan to think hard about its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and whether it still wants to fulfill them.”

Azerbaijan signed the European convention of human in 2001 but its refusal to implement ECHR rulings has contributed to a slow-burning crisis for the court.

Jagland wants to invoke the Council of Europe convention’s Article 46.4 which could ultimately lead to Azerbaijan being ejected from the human rights body. This “nuclear option” has never been used before and would require action from European foreign ministers, following a court assessment.

The politics of the oil-rich country were also being debuted in the European Parliament, when MEPs voted to set up a corruption investigation by 349 votes to 290, with 42 abstentions. “Following the recent ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’ revelations, attempts by Azerbaijan and other countries to influence European decision makers through illicit means [the European parliament] calls for a comprehensive parliament investigation,” the text stated.

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