Günter Nooke, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, leaves today on a trip to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In Armenia he is scheduled to have talks with Foreign Minister Nalbandian and Justice Minister Danielyan. He will also meet representatives of the National Assembly, the Opposition and civil society. His agenda will include the events surrounding the presidential elections in February 2008 as well as issues relating to freedom of the press and assembly. Before leaving for Armenia, Nooke issued the following statement in Berlin:
"I welcome the recent extensive amnesty covering also individuals sentenced in connection with the March 2008 demonstrations and civil unrest as an important step towards national reconciliation. However, the full truth of what happened following the presidential elections has yet to be investigated and brought to light."
In Azerbaijan the Commissioner is due to meet Foreign and Justice Ministry officials, the human rights Ombudswoman and independent journalists and human rights activists. His talks in Baku will focus on respect for freedom of the press, assembly and religion as well as the laws governing the activities of non-governmental organizations.
In this connection the Commissioner commented as follows:
"A vibrant civil society is an essential part of any democracy. The recently published bill on non-governmental organizations gave grounds for concern in my view. I am pleased some of the planned restrictions have now been dropped and trust that also in future civil society engagement in Azerbaijan will continue to be possible."