Azerbaijani delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe opposes passing a bill on conscientious objection

Azerbaijani delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe opposes passing a bill on conscientious objection

As part of its commitment to the Council of Europe Azerbaijan agreed to recognise the right to conscientious objection when it joined. However, this has so far not happened. "This Bill must be discussed in Milli Majlis (the Azerbaijani parliament). If some MPs insist on passing this Bill, some terms will be set forth for it to take effect, that is, the alternative military service will not be introduced in Azerbaijan unless the occupied lands of Azerbaijan are freed," Gultakin Hajiyeva, member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and MP said to TrendNews on 24 July.

Azerbaijan undertook several obligations in 2001when it was admitted to the Council of Europe. One of them is to pass a law to recognise the right to conscientious objection. At present, the parliament is developing this Bill. In 2002, Azerbaijan changed the constitution to allow for the right to conscientious objection. The right to conscientious objection is now enshrined in Article 76 of the 1995 Constitution. The Article reads (as amended in 2002): "If serving in the armed forces runs counter to a person's convictions, then active military service can be replaced by an alternative service done in the cases specified by law." However, such a law has so far not been passed.

According to Hajiyeva, Azerbaijan has fulfilled all its obligations before the Council of Europe excluding the recognition of conscientious objection. "There are reasonable grounds in this regard. About 20% of the Azerbaijani lands have been occupied. There is no need to pass this Bill which creates conditions to deviate from the military service," Hajiyeva said. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nevertheless passed a new resolution, demanding, among others, that "the law on alternative civilian service should be adopted without further delay, in line with Azerbaijan's accession commitment" (Resolution 1614 (2008), 24 June 2008).

Sources: TrendNews: Azerbaijani Delegation in PACE Opposes Fulfillment of Some Obligations Before Council of Europe, 25 July 2008, Quaker Council on European Affairs: The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: Azerbaijan, 2005, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Resolution 1614 (2008), 24 June 2008