on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 10 December 2008
at the 1044th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as “the Framework Convention”);
Having regard to Resolution (97) 10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution (97) 10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by Azerbaijan on 1 October 2000;
Recalling that the Government of Azerbaijan transmitted its state report in respect of the second monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 10 January 2007;
Having examined the Advisory Committee’s second opinion on Azerbaijan, adopted on 9 November 2007, and the written comments of the Government of Azerbaijan, received on 2 May 2008;
Having also taken note of comments by other governments,
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of Azerbaijan:
a) Positive developments
Since the adoption of the Advisory Committee’s first opinion in May 2003, Azerbaijan has continued to pay attention to the situation of persons belonging to national minorities. Moreover, the authorities have maintained an inclusive approach with regard to the scope of application of the Framework Convention.
Regional branches of the Ombudsperson’s Office have been established, which should increase the accessibility of this institution for persons belonging to national minorities. Furthermore, the Ombudsperson’s Office is increasingly active in the field of inter-religious dialogue and has developed transfrontier co-operation on national minority protection. A National Action Plan on the Protection of Human Rights was adopted in 2006, which includes among its objectives the preservation and development of the cultural heritage of national minorities.
A Presidential Decree on the promotion of assistance to non-governmental organisations was enacted in July 2007. It is hoped that it will also have a positive impact on activities of national minority organisations. Recent positive developments also include the adoption, in July 2008, of a “Concept for State support for the development of media in Azerbaijan”, which aims, inter alia, to provide increased support for media programmes on ethnic and religious tolerance.
In May 2008, the Law on Freedom of Assembly was amended so as to remove a number of restrictions and ease the full enjoyment of this right in practice.
A Co-ordination Council of the Cultural Centres of national minorities, including representatives of national minorities, was set up by the Ministry of Culture in 2004 to serve as a consultative body for this ministry.
A Code of Conduct of the Police has been adopted and an emergency line to report on human rights abuses by the police is now available to the public.
Teaching of the Lezgin language is now available beyond the fourth grade in schools situated in areas where persons belonging to the Lezgin minority live in substantial numbers. Teaching in Russian and Georgian continues to be available, as well as teaching, at primary education level, of some other minority languages. Efforts have been made to develop textbooks in some of the minority languages.
b) Issues of concern
Notwithstanding the positive developments mentioned before, the draft law on the protection of national minorities, under consideration since the accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe, has not been adopted yet. Despite some constitutional and legislative guarantees for persons belonging to national minorities, the legal and institutional framework available for the protection of persons belonging to national minorities is very limited.
The State Counsellor for National Minorities, the government structure that was in charge of national minority issues previously, is no longer operating and at present a specific department in the Presidential administration is responsible for national minority issues. However, state support to persons belonging to national minorities, including support for the activities of national minority associations, is limited. Moreover, there is no support scheme in place and no consultation of the representatives of national minorities when funds are allocated.
Persons belonging to national minorities are, reportedly, present in administrative authorities and elected bodies. However, possibilities for national minorities to effectively channel their views and concerns to the authorities are very scarce. Meetings of the Council for National Minorities have not been convened for a number of years and the Co-ordination Council of the Cultural Centres of national minorities does not play a role in decision making. There is no specific forum where persons belonging to national minorities can discuss, on a regular basis, issues of relevance for them with the authorities. There is a need to speed up efforts to set a new Council for minorities, as recently announced by the authorities.
As stated in the Advisory Committee’s opinion, under Article 4 of the Framework Convention (see paragraphs 16, 39 and 67), persons belonging to some national minorities continue to face instances of discrimination in various fields, as well as hostility, sometimes triggered by the media. However, Azerbaijan has not yet adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and there is no case law related to discrimination on grounds of belonging to a national minority. Awareness of discrimination-related issues seems to be very limited in the law enforcement bodies as well as in the society at large. There is no monitoring of discrimination and, in general, a lack of data on the situation of persons belonging to national minorities.
Serious problems persist as regards the freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Reported intolerance, and sometimes harassment, faced by persons and organisations advocating minority rights, as well as by undue restrictions placed on related public gatherings, raise deep concerns.
Notwithstanding amendments to the Law on State Language, legal obstacles to broadcasting in minority languages persist in the form of a regulation of the National Council for Radio and Television of 2003, which introduced an obligation for all media outlets to broadcast for at least 75% of the time in the state language. Moreover, participation of persons belonging to national minorities in the media remains limited, despite some broadcasting in minority languages and the existence of newspapers in minority languages.
Some provisions of the Law on State Language of 2002, notably the obligation to use the state language in all services and for all signs, posters, advertisements and announcements, continue to raise serious concerns with regard to the rights enshrined in Article 10 and Article 11 of the Framework Convention. Moreover, there is no specific legislation that guarantees the possibility to use minority languages in relations with the administrative authorities in areas where the conditions mentioned in the Framework Convention are fulfilled.
Teaching of minority languages, currently available only during the first four grades – except for the Lezgin language as mentioned above, needs to be expanded in order to ensure that the results achieved are built upon. Moreover, there is a continued need for quality textbooks for minority languages teaching and a need for more specific teacher training.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of Azerbaijan:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in Sections I and II of the Advisory Committee's opinion, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
- resume efforts to finalise new legislation on the protection of national minorities. Re-establish specific institutional structures devoted to national minority issues;
- identify ways and means of allowing effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities in decision making, notably on issues of relevance to them. Set up a consultative body to allow persons belonging to national minorities to channel their concerns and to serve as a forum for dialogue between national minorities’ representatives and the authorities on issues of interest for national minorities;
- increase state support to persons belonging to national minorities, including to activities of the organisations representing them. Consider setting up a specific support scheme, allowing persons belonging to national minorities to take part in decision making on the allocation of state support;
- take measures to combat all forms of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of belonging to a national minority. Set up a system of regular monitoring by the authorities of discrimination cases and undertake awareness-raising campaigns on discrimination, including among the judiciary;
- take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons belonging to national minorities can freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly. Combat all manifestations of hostility directed against persons and organisations promoting minority rights;
- consider adopting measures, including legislative, to guarantee that persons belonging to national minorities can effectively use their minority languages in relations with the local administrative authorities;
- take measures to ensure that persons belonging to national minorities can display all signs and posters, of a private nature and visible to the public, in minority languages;
- consider taking measures allowing the display, where appropriate, of topographical indications in minority languages;
- take additional steps to expand teaching of minority languages, including by addressing shortcomings with regard to teaching material and teacher training.
3. Invites the Government of Azerbaijan, in accordance with Resolution (97) 10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in section 1 and 2 above.
Note 1 In the context of adopting Resolution (97) 10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.