Head of Department of Presidential Administration: Unlawful actions will be prevented henceforth as well - INTERVIEW

Head of Department of Presidential Administration: Unlawful actions will be prevented henceforth as well  - <font color=red>INTERVIEW</font>
# 14 April 2011 09:09 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Interview with Mr. Fuad Alasgarov, Head of the Department on Coordination of law-enforcement agencies, Administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

-During the last month the opposition attempted to hold assemblies without prior notification. What do you think about this?

During last few weeks some radical opposition forces were trying to hold assemblies accompanied by insulting calls and violence in Baku, and on 2 April, at the Fountains Square, they committed acts resulted in blatant violation of public order, normal functioning of the transport, enterprises, offices and organizations. One of the mottos of these actions was the accusation of the Government failing to combat corruption.
I should like to note in this regard that complex activities are being implemented in the country in the field of combating corruption and some important results have already been achieved in this field.
As the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev noted during his meetings with the population in various regions of our country, today our main task is to turn Azerbaijan into a modern, developed state. In order to ensure high economic development and social welfare, strong anti-corruption activities are being undertaken in Azerbaijan. At the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on 12 April dedicated to the outcomes of the social and economic development in the first quarter of 2011 the President stressed that the strengthening of struggle with corruption and bribery gives its important results. This policy will be continued. This is our willful choice and the measures undertaken are highly appreciated by people.
In these circumstances, the purpose of the individuals trying to assemble in the manner and with the mottoes I’ve mentioned above, and engaging in violation of public order and shouting is to impede the development of Azerbaijan, to cast a shadow on the policy of active construction and reforms conducted by the state, to prevent the authorities and city residents from their daily activities, undermine the public-political stability existing in the country.
At the same time, if we have a look on the “strategy of holding actions” of these persons, those purposes will become clearer. Instead of coordinating the time and venue of the assembly with the Baku Executive Power, they have tried to violate public order in small groups in places not indicated in the notification for assembly, even in several places simultaneously. And after detention of some group of persons for committing unlawful, violent actions, they consider that they action “succeeded”. Here, one may not speak about freedom of assembly.
In accordance with the international treaties setting forth this right, the first and foremost condition for implementation of the freedom of assembly is its peaceful character. If the assembly is obviously accompanied by violence or, just before the assembly, in the media and internet there are calls on to commit, during the event, unlawful actions against the authorities, even the instructions are given concerning the ways of obstructing the officers fulfilling their duties of protection of public order, how can this assembly be named peaceful.
Moreover, account has to be taken also if the so-called bright previous experience of these forces. We all remember the events of October 2003 accompanied by inflicting severe bodily injuries to individuals, serious damage to property, violation of public order. Individuals who have been brought to responsibility for organizing those events, now try to hold new actions. It seems that they do not intend to abstain from their old habits.

-How the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly is regulated in the legislation?

Article 49 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan provides for a right of every person to gather with other persons peacefully, unarmed, to conduct assemblies, meetings, demonstrations with prior notification of the relevant state agencies. A law on “Freedom of assembly” was passed to regulate the implementation of this right. At the same time, as our country has stepped to the new stage of development of the socio-political relations as a result of economic development, the provisions of this law have been improved and the Venice Commission in its final opinion concerning the Law noted that it was in line with the European standards.
I should stress that the freedom of assembly is not absolute and it can be restricted. According to the Law on “Freedom of assembly”, this right can be restricted in various forms, including change of time and venue of the assembly.
While the Law lists the places, where the conduction of the assembly might be restricted, it says that relevant bodies of executive power shall provide a special area for conducting gatherings, meetings and demonstrations in each city and region. The list of places proposed for holding assemblies in Baku has been determined by the Baku City Executive Power and published in the press.
In the meanwhile, as the legislation in our country is being improved following the development of socio-political relations, the other acts must be of dynamic character. Thus, “square” in front of the “Tabriz” cinema has been indicated as one of the places proposed for holding assemblies in Baku. However, this area has been significantly changed since the time of publication of the list. As a result of improvement of traffic infrastructure in our country, as well as in the capital, new highways and roads have been constructed in many areas. Today, modern, wide road is passing in front of the “Tabriz” cinema and, therefore, it is not possible to hold any assembly in this place.
In this regard, it should be noted that, in the context of interference with the individuals’ right to freedom of assembly, the proportionality of the possible restrictions is one of the important issues to be considered. European Court of Justice, in one of its decisions concerning Austria, stated that ban on holding the assembly on the highway with intense traffic can be considered reasonable.
Therefore, in restricting any right, the balance should be achieved between the competing interests. It is not possible to leave a great part of Baku without traffic and consequently violate much many others’ normal life, activities and related rights in order to ensure the right to freedom of assembly of 200-300 individuals.

-How do you assess the EU statement on the matter?

With respect to the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union at the Permanent Council of the OSCE, I should like to note that the statement is non-objective and biased, because this organization obtains the information about the processes in our country only from the oppositional sources. It appears from the statement that the individuals detained for the violation of public order in Baku are kind of being persecuted for the exercise of their right to freedom of assembly. However, I should like to reiterate that the mentioned actions did not have peaceful character at all.
We expect the EU to be guided by the principles of objectivity and balance while issuing any statement. In this regard, I should particularly like to draw attention to the position of the European Court.
In of the cases concerning the UK, the Commission stated that where public processions, despite large police deployments, had resulted in riots and disturbances, an order banning all public processions in one area might be justified for limited period of time.
In the decision in another case concerning Switzerland the Strasbourg organs stated that the subjection of public meetings to an authorization procedure does not normally encroach upon the essence of the right. Such a procedure is in keeping with the requirements of Article 11, if only in order that the authorities may be in position to ensure the peaceful nature of a meeting, and accordingly does not as such constitute interference with the exercise of the right.
In accordance with the Law on “Freedom of assembly”, persons organizing the assembly have to notify in advance the relevant body of executive power in written for coordinating its time and venue in order to allow the relevant body of executive power to make necessary arrangements. In other words, this provision of the law is in line with both the provisions of the international treaties and practice of many countries. In these circumstances, it is at least surprising that the opposition parties, functioning in the Stated governed by Rule of law, refer to the notion of “authorized demonstration” and say that “there is no notion of “authorized” demonstration in Europe”.

-What can you say about the allegations that the participants of the actions have been subjected to torture?

Generally, the notion of torture is being distorted by the opposition. The use of force by the police carrying out the duty of protection of public order cannot be regarded as a torture. In accordance with the legislation, the police is authorized to resort to use of force, even special means for the suspension of an assembly and dispersal of its participants. If a participant of the assembly does not obey to the lawful orders of the police for dispersal and demonstrates resistance, even attacks police, the police, of course, must resort to lawful use of force. In these cases, bodily injuries might be inflicted upon individuals as well. However, it cannot be regarded as torture or beating. In this regard, the artificial media hype, false information circulated by some mass media has no ground.
Individuals who try to violate the socio-political stability must know that the State will undertake all necessary measures to prevent the unlawful actions, to ensure the Rule of Law and protect normal life of the society.