Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev announced yesterday that he has ordered the presidential commission on legal affairs to prepare and submit within three months draft laws on reforming the police, the public prosecutor’s office, the bar, and the municipal administration. Aliev simultaneously ordered the commission to draft new civil, criminal, and procedural codes in 1998. The commission is to work with experts from the Council of Europe and other organizations to strengthen conformity with Western legal norms.
Also yesterday, Aliev announced that he has submitted to the Milli Majlis a bill on abolishing capital punishment. At present, 128 convicts — some of them common criminals, others sentenced for participation in coup attempts — are on death row in Azerbaijan. Aliev has introduced and observed a moratorium on executions since coming to power in 1993, even though state prosecutors have continued demanding, and courts handing down, death sentences. (Turan, January 22)
These measures are aimed at promoting Azerbaijan’s effort to gain full membership in the Council of Europe and other international organizations. The legislative adaptation will undoubtedly take time. The country currently has guest status at the Council of Europe, which has just sent a fact-finding delegation to Azerbaijan. This year’s presidential election will be an important test of the country’s qualifications for full membership.
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