HUMAN RIGHTS AND OIL

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PAC E) in Strasbourg keeps an eye on how human rights are observed across Europe. On January 24 only 79 out of the 224 participants at the session  voted for the resolution denouncing political reprisals in Azerbaijan. As a result, the resolution was rejected2013-02-03Council-of-Europe.

The main motivation for not supporting the resolution was that Christopher Straesser, the Rapporteur on Political Prisoners, had not visited Azerbaijan and didn’t have a firsthand knowledge about the situation. The fact that the Azeri government had not been granting Mr. Straesser a visa for the last three years, was not taken into account by the PACE.

However, a more important reason might have been that on the eve of the PACE session representatives of the Azerbaijan authorities who were in Strasbourg called around members of the Parliamentary Assembly explaining that the political prisoners were “terrorists”, and also hinting that Azerbaijan was an oil-producing country. For oil-importing European countries the latter fact is of a special importance.

The case of the Ukrainian political prisoners is supposed to be discussed by the PACE this coming April. After the failure of the resolution on Azerbaijan we may say “was supposed to be discussed…” Mr. Pieter Omtzigt, a Christian Democrat from the Netherlands, who is preparing a report for the Assembly, cannot get a visa from the Ukrainian government to investigate the situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities learn quickly from their Azeri counterparts.

As a teenager, I used to listen to the Voice of America, the BBC and Radio Liberty broadcasting on short-waves to the Soviet Union (actually, it was my father who listened – I was listening “with him”). I knew about Viktor Nekrasov, Daniel and Sinyavskiy, Ivan Dzyuba, Petro Hryhorenko, and later – about Yuri Orlov, Andrey Sakharov, Elena Bonner and many other Russian and Ukrainian dissidents. I was confident that the Western democracies were a bedrock for human rights standards all over the world. Now I know better.

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