Human Rights in South Caucasus – Update as of 12/02/24

The files we follow: Karabakh Situation; Abkhazia and South Ossetia / Georgia Conflict; Georgia – EU/ US/Russia/Ukraine Relations and Georgian Domestic Policy, South Caucasian energy, trade and transport issues, Human Rights in South Caucasus, Various foreign policies Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia.

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As Armenia became the 124th new state party to the International Criminal Court, having officially deposited the instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute, meaning that it now has the obligation to arrest the Russian President Vladimir Putin if he were to enter his territory, and in Georgia Mikheïl Saakashvili said he intended to lead the political activity committee of the United National Movement from the Vivamed clinic during the Tribunal hearing, Ilham Aliev, son of former President Heydar Aliev whom he succeeded in 2003, was unsurprisingly re-elected for a fifth term with 92.12% of the votes, following the early Azerbaijani presidential elections of 7 February marked by a rate participation of 76.73%.

OSCE observers said the electionslacked true pluralismand “critical voices were continually suppressed.” The observers’ statement said that “long-standing restrictions on freedoms of association and expression [had] been strengthened by recent legal amendments and [had] resulted in legislation inconsistent with international democratic standards. Mission coordinator Artur Gerasymov described the environment for these elections as “restrictive”. The report states that “highly restrictive media legislation and recent arrests of critical journalists [had] prevented the media from operating freely and [had] led to widespread self-censorship, limiting the scope of independent journalism and critical debate “.

The European External Action Service reaffirmed through its spokesperson that it hopes that “the Azerbaijani authorities will take into account and implement the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations regarding these and previous elections“, a similar statement to that of the United States Embassy in Azerbaijan. The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, described the re-election of Iham Aliyev as “convincing, noting that Russia had sent 148 international observers, which the chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation had declared that “the vote [took place] on a competitive alternative basis and in a positive atmosphere” and that SCO Chairman Zhang Ming had emphasized the “openness and transparency” of the elections.

But why early presidential elections? What do they reveal about the fragilities of the power in place ? Ilham Aliev obviously did not bring forward the presidential elections for fear of failure in April 2025. The point here is to understand how domestic political interests and the international context combine to arrive at such a decision.

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