“OSCE events have become more of a platform for accusations than a platform for dialogue”

“OSCE events have become more of a platform for accusations than a platform for dialogue”

07 October 2016, 17:55 7676

OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights celebrated its 25th anniversary not long ago. This year 50 years have passed since the ratification of the İnternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural rights and 40 years since the implementation of this decision. There were panels dedicated to jubilees at the annual Human Dimension implementation meeting of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Office. Human rights defender Sahib Mammadov, who has attended the annual Human Dimension implementation meeting of OSCE and additional events held in Vienna for years, answered our questions.

- Mr. Mammadov, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights held a Human Dimension implementation meeting recently. You , as usual, were the participant of this conference. We’d like to know your impressions about the event...

- For many years, I’ve participated in the annual OSCE Human Dimension implementation meeting, as well as other events. Additional events usually take place either in Austrian capital Vienna or in Warsaw. Main events as a general rule are about freedom of assembly, unity and other fundamental human rights, and additional events are mainly about one of more of these issues. The schedule is very large in the events held in Warsaw. For example, the topics may include social rights, migrants rights, xenophobia, religious intolerance and others in addition to usual fundamental rights and freedoms. These events usually last ten or fourteen days. The thing is, in addition to main issues on the agenda, other interesting events not included on the agenda also take place. They are called parallel events. In the last year’s meeting, there were 81 of such events. Just imagine, daily panels are organized in OSCE event and in parallel to this or during the breaks or even in the early morning, rooms, halls are rented out by certain groups and additional events are held, with the condition that they do not take place at the same time as the main event. Thus, OSCE events are very big. Their latest event was more of a jubilee. My first impression was that, the purpose of meetings are changing for the worse every passing year. You could view these events as a platform for dialogue in the past. In the Paris Charter for New Europe adopted in 1990, the participation of civic society in the events was recommended. Let’s review what obligations OSCE had in accordance with the Charter. One of the main objectives was to bring the governments and the civic society together with the help of such events. Unfortunately, in the last few years, this has become more of a platform for accusations than dialogue. As an example, we can point out to Ukraine accusing Russia or the USA accusing Russia, or say, Armenia accusing Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan making counter claims against those accusations, etc. On the other hand, these events have become a space for confrontation between civic society, especially the representatives of "civic society” controlled by various powers, and the governments. This doesn’t serve anything. The participants of this event of OSCE openly stated that OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has become an office for complaints.

- In your opinion, who or what organizations are the ones turning OSCE ODIHR to an office for complaints?

- There are hundreds and thousands of NGOs in Europe. They create many networks. Those networks draw large amounts of money for their activities and organize campaigns against various states. Azerbaijan has been target of such networks from time to time. Particularly at a time when a large scale events is held in the country or before an economic project of global importance is about to be implemented. For instance, large global campaigns were organized during the launching of Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan railway, elections or Eurovision 2012, the 1st European Games. Among the organizations that lead these anti- Azerbaijan campaigns, there are some who are under the influence of the Armenian lobby. They have a purpose in acting this way. It’s true that there are human rights violations in every country and it is normal for the governments to be criticized for these human rights violations. But what’s interesting is that, countries such as Armenia and Georgia are never mentioned when talking about the human rights violations. However, an NGO from Georgia or Tajikistan roundly criticizes the state of human rights in Azerbaijan. If this NGO had criticized Azerbaijan or any other country based on facts  and conveyed their sincere concerns, then it would be understandable. Even we can criticize certain policies of our government, state in international events, or within the country, in media outlets, etc. It should be accepted as normal. But when you dig deeper, you can see that "sensitivity” and "concerns” towards Azerbaijan of some NGOs have some other motive.

- What "criticisms” are voiced about Azerbaijan by the NGOs who have joined the coalition from different countries?

- For example, a few years ago campaigns entitled "Sing for Democracy”, "Sport for Rights" were organized against Azerbaijan. There is a coalition that carries out these campaigns and it includes 19 organizations. This coalition consists of "Azerbaijani activists”, Georgian NGOs and even an NGO from Tajikistan. This NGO representative from Tajikistan speaks about the state of human rights in Azerbaijan with a "heavy heart”. When in reality, 90% of population in this person’s country lives like a slave, they work as a slave in different countries. Many Tajik women sell themselves in UAA, Dubai. If this Tajik NGO leader is genuinely concerned about the state of human rights, they should talk about their own country first. But they don’t do that and they even utter statements such as "I’m very happy that Tajikistan hasn’t stooped to the level of Azerbaijan” – in their speech at OSCE. The same goes for the NGO leader from Georgia. If they really care about Azerbaijani people, they should talk about the violations of human rights of Azerbaijanis living in Georgia, such as religious, language, property, education, labor and other rights. When talking about the political prisoners in Azerbaijan, that NGO member doesn’t mention that the person who succeeded Saakashvili as president arrested almost all members of the previous government and some of them had to seek asylum abroad. Though there are no Armenian NGO in that coalition, there are some organizations that are indirectly under the influence of Armenians. And most importantly, these organizations under Armenian influence play a dominant role in the said coalition. We can name People in Need from Czech Republic, Helsinki Fund for Human Rights from Poland, Human Rights House from Norway as examples of such organizations. The funding, action plan of the coalition is controlled by these organizations. The zombified "human rights defenders” from Azerbaijan accompany others in the coalition. They pass on the information to the coalition that is unthinkable, and have very little truth to it but are exaggerated.

- You noted that the NGO’s are carrying out politically motivated campaigns against Azerbaijan. What are these motives?

- Based on my research, I have grouped the coalitions, targeted criticism and campaigns against Azerbaijan at OSCE events. There are several motives. The first one is that big money is being circulated in these coalitions. "Human rights defenders” from Azerbaijan are being used to launder this dirty money. In layman’s terms, the main, dominant organizations within these coalitions uphold the principle of "money brings money” and spend some money on the institution and later earn a lot of money from them. The travel, accommodation and eating expenses of the NGOs from Tajikistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and other countries which attend OSCE events are reimbursed. They might even receive small amount of money. But the ones that make big money from campaign against Azerbaijan are those few dominant organizations within the coalition. For example, in the last year alone,
-The US based NED organization has allocated 21 grants with a total worth of 1 million 200 thousands dollars to Azerbaijan. These grants include funding to help the political prisoners. But to this day, none of these persons who are called political prisoners, or their family members or their lawyers have received any financial support. So the money is allocated to Azerbaijan for various reasons but they are being laundered and returned. There is a "human rights defender” for whom a bank account was opened in one of Azerbaijani banks and they have plastic card to receive the money that has been transferred to them. The money is sent to this individual disguised as grant and later it is withdrawn with the said plastic card. But the coalitions that are linked to Armenians have a more important purpose than money. By trying to portray Azerbaijan as a more anti-democratic country where human rights are completely violated, they are trying to justify the Armenian separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh, the occupation policy of Armenia. Moreover, these dominant forces in the coalition are trying to harm the tolerance and multiculturalism of Azerbaijani society by increasing radicalism in the country. For this purpose, they defend the forces within Azerbaijan that can stimulate radicalism. The reality is, Azerbaijani society is monolithic. There is no religious, racial, ethnic conflict. There are no sectarian conflict between two different sects of the same religion. Certain forces within these coalitions are interested in destabilization, destroying monolithism, tolerance and multiculturalism. Thus they intend to destroy the state from within, cause civil war and shake the resilient struggle of Azerbaijani army on the frontline.

- Finally, what is your conclusion? What would you recommend to civic society, NGOs and human rights defenders?

- 20% of Azerbaijani territories are under occupation. Despite ceasefire, the opposite side violates the agreement with various provocation. Our Armed Forces stay alerts on the frontline in spite of all difficulties, they protect our motherland. The strength of Azerbaijani Army, their superiority to the enemy in every way is clear as daylight. We shouldn’t allow our enemies to open a second front within Azerbaijan. The existence of civic society if important in this. It is necessary to strengthen a civic society that will criticize the government if necessary but will protect the basic principles of stats. It is wrong to only think of NGOs when we are talking about civic society. It’s important to include mass media , communities, religious organizations, political parties and all of our citizens in general.