Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Liberal Democrat, Portsmouth South

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of (a) the independence of the judiciary and (b) the ability of the political opposition to operate freely in Azerbaijan; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Minister of State (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

International organisations including the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Council of Europe have identified a number of shortcomings in the judicial system in Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Justice in Azerbaijan is taking important steps to improve the training of judges, but we assess that there is still much room for improvement in the conduct of the legal system.

The political opposition faces significant impediments to its ability to operate freely in Azerbaijan. We have made our concerns known to the Government of Azerbaijan on a number of occasions, including during and after the 2005 parliamentary elections and during 2006.

Democracy and the rule of law are highlighted as priority areas for reforms in an EU European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan for Azerbaijan, which was agreed and adopted in November 2006.

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