Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Praise Azerbaijan’s Improved Birth Registration Rate, Ask aboutthe Mandate of the Ombudsman and Deinstitutionalisation Policies
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Azerbaijan, with Committee Experts praising Azerbaijan’s improved birth registration rate and raising questions about the mandate of the Ombudsman related to children and deinstitutionalisation policies.
José Angel Rodríguez Reyes, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that the rate of birth registration had improved in Azerbaijan, which was commendable. What contributions had State projects promoting birth registration made to this?
Velina Todorova, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, asked if the Ombudsman had a mandate to receive complaints from children, and did it comply with the Paris Principles? Did the State intend to increase the staffing of the Ombudsman?
Bragi Gudbransson, Committee Expert and Member of the Country Taskforce for Azerbaijan, reported concerns that the best interests of the child were not considered when children were placed in institutions. Was legislation on residential care regularly reviewed? Ms. Todorova asked who coordinated deinstitutionalisation policies and national strategies?
On birth registrations, the delegation said that only one parent needed to apply to register the birth of a child, and relatives and trustees could also apply. A State policy was in place to digitise the registration of births and issuance of birth and death certificates. A mobile app had also been developed to request birth certificates and other identity documents.
Bahar Muradova, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan and head of the delegation, said a unit for the protection of children’s rights had been established within the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan, and its material and technical capabilities enhanced. Moreover, proposals to empower the Ombudsman to independently monitor the implementation of the Conventions on the Rights of Children and on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were being discussed. The delegation added that new draft amendments to legislation on the Ombudsman had been prepared to allow the Ombudsman to conduct independent monitoring, and these had been adopted by Parliament.
The Ministry of Education was implementing a State programme promoting deinstitutionalisation, the delegation said. A taskforce had found that only 696 of the 11,000 children who had been placed in State-owned institutions stayed in these institutions full-time. Alternatives to institutions were gradually being created.
In closing remarks, Ms. Todorova expressed hope that the concluding observations would be translated into the local language and transmitted to communities, officials and children; that children would be considered as rights holders, and that authorities would encourage their active participation. She wished Azerbaijan well in implementing its action plans and the Committee’s concluding observations.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Muradova thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue. She welcomed Experts’ criticisms to be included in the concluding observations, which would encourage the State to make further progress. Azerbaijan was mobilising all its resources to support its citizens, ensure the safety and integrity of the State and promote freedom of expression. The State would try its best to resolve the issues identified by the Committee in a systematic and comprehensive manner.
The delegation of Azerbaijan consisted of representatives from the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs; Ministry of Internal Affairs; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Science and Education; Ministry of Youth and Sports; Ministry of Agriculture; State Statistics Committee; Food Safety Agency; State Agency on Mandatory Health Insurance; Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population; Presidential Administration; Ministry of Digital Development and Transport; State Migration Service; Prosecutor General’s Office; Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Justice; and the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Azerbaijan at the end of its ninety-second session on 3 February. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 24 January at 3 p.m. to consider the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Ireland (CRC/C/IRL/5-6).
The Committee has before it the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Azerbaijan (CRC/C/AZE/5-6).
Presentation of Report
BAHAR MURADOVA, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs of Azerbaijan and head of the delegation, said that Azerbaijan had made efforts to bring national legislation in line with the Convention. The State had ratified the Lanzarote Convention in 2019 and the Child Support Convention in 2022. A 10-year child strategy and a five-year action plan had also been prepared and adopted. Legislation on children’s safe access to education, social and other services during pandemics and other emergency situations had recently been approved. This year, a two-year comparative analysis of the implementation of the child strategy had commenced.
During the reporting period, the Agency for Sustainable and Operative Social Provision and its local level “DOST” centres, as well as the Social Services Agency had been established. More than 30 DOST Centres were expected to be established by 2026. A draft decree regarding foster families and a gatekeeping system was also currently being considered. In 2021, the Department of Social Rehabilitation for Victims of Domestic Violence was launched, and in 2022, a five-year strategy for developing support services for victims had been adopted. Moreover, a unit for the protection of children’s rights had been established within the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan, and its material and technical capabilities enhanced. Proposals to empower the Ombudsman to independently monitor the implementation of the Conventions on the Rights of Children and on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were being discussed.
In 2021, a project was implemented to support children with disabilities across the country. A State programme on inclusive education had been adopted and inclusive education classes had been organised in 12 schools in the last year.
Child participation was ensured through three platforms: the Child Ambassadors Council, the National Forum of Azerbaijani Children, which was held every 3 years, and the “My voice, my rights” project.
Under Azerbaijani law, perpetrators of violence against children and corporal punishment were held administratively or criminally liable. The “School Friendly” project against violence and corporal punishment had been successful in creating a safe environment and tackling bullying in schools.
Last year, the General Prosecutor's Office designed an action plan and created a working group aiming to prevent suicide among children. The Office also prepared an awareness-raising manual on preventing child suicide; 2,500 school psychologists had been trained during the pandemic and post-pandemic period. The State planned to increase the number of clinical psychologists and social workers working with children who had experienced sexual abuse, and strengthen training for these professionals.
Ms. Muradova said the State had organised local and international projects on digitalising education; inaugurated science, technology, engineering and mathematics centres; and planned to open school preparatory groups, provide free textbooks to students, and allocate more funding for education, medical, health and rehabilitation expenses. A recently adopted social reform package provided another round of financial support to vulnerable groups and children.
Maternal and infant mortality rates had declined due to activities undertaken to protect maternal and infant health. Since 2020, the compulsory medical insurance system had covered all citizens of the country, including children. A draft law on reproductive health was expected to be discussed and adopted at the next session of Parliament.
National legislation on juvenile justice was in line with international norms, and reforms were planned to further strengthen this legislation. A training programme had been established to improve the Probation Service’s treatment of children. Seven hotline and helpline services for children, a psychosocial rehabilitation centre for children in conflict with the law, and new penitentiary institutions for women and juvenile prisoners had been established.
Azerbaijan had liberated territories occupied by Armenia in the 44-Day Patriotic War. Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan resulted in the killing of 93 civilians, including 12 children and 27 women. Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan ensured the safety of its opponents’ civilian population, especially children and women. There had been no registered cases of involvement of children in armed conflicts. Azerbaijan had undertaken large-scale rehabilitation and reconstruction works in the formerly occupied territories. However, landmines planted in those areas by Armenia over the last 30 years were hindering progress. Mines also posed serious threats to civilians living and working in these territories, and to internally displaced persons attempting to return to their homes. Over the past 30 years, 38 women and 357 children had fallen victim to landmines.
Azerbaijan was ready to work together with United Nations agencies to achieve peace and stability in the region and build a happy, loving environment for children.
Questions by Committee Experts
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that several reports indicated that the law on the rights of the child, passed in 1988, was outdated. Had progress been made in updating this law? When would other proposed legislation relating to children be adopted? How did the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs communicate with the Government, who implemented its decisions, and was the Committee independent from the executive branch? How were the various State agencies coordinated? Budget allocations for health and education had reportedly been decreased in recent years. How did the State ensure that an appropriate budget was allocated to children’s rights? Was the Government considering ratifying the third Optional Protocol to the Convention?
The State databank on children was reportedly not fully operational and there were issues with the synchronisation of data. What efforts were being made to improve the databank and protect the privacy of the data?
Did the Ombudsman have a mandate to receive complaints from children, and did it comply with the Paris Principles? Did the State intend to increase the staffing of the Ombudsman?
Many policies for children seemed to be event-based, rather than based on a systematic approach to children’s rights. The Government had done little to follow up on the Committee’s previous concluding observations. Did the State plan to integrate the Convention and children’s rights into the mainstream school curriculum, and into teachers’ education and training?
Restrictive laws prevented non-governmental organizations from operating independently. Were there plans to revise this legislation? Funding allocated for the activities of non-governmental organizations defending child rights was very low. Were there plans to increase this? What legislation had been developed regarding business activities to protect children’s rights?
The legal minimum age of marriage was 18 years, however, children at 17 could marry when given special permission by registration offices. Why was “military service” considered as a factor for granting marriage for children younger than 18?
There was widespread defacto discrimination of girls, expressed by sex-selective abortions and prevalent gender stereotypes. Similarly, children with disabilities and children living in rural areas were subjected to discrimination. What measures were in place to tackle this discrimination?
The Committee welcomed legislation on the best interests of the child regarding guardianship. What training on the best interests of the child was provided to social workers, law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary? What measures were in place to protect children from road accidents?
The Committee commended legislation allowing children to express their views in guardianship cases. Were there measures to inform children of their rights before court cases began, and how did courts take the views of children into consideration? What platforms were available for children to participate in decision-making regarding legislation and curricula, and to express views regarding issues affecting them?
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that the rate of birth registration had improved in Azerbaijan, which was commendable. What contributions had State projects promoting birth registration made to this? Was the State considering allowing birth registration officers to be placed in health facilities? What was the procedure when an application for registering a birth was late? Had Azerbaijan ratified the 1997 European Convention and the Council of Europe Convention on reducing statelessness?
Had the National Forum for Azerbaijani Children produced positive results? Were fora held regularly? Were the decisions adopted at these fora disseminated to other children. There was a school subject called “Aptitude for Life” that taught about the impact of religion on life. What religions were covered in this subject? Did schools allow students to wear veils? What measures had been taken to make the Internet safer for children?
RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that between 2021 and 2022, the Convention was mentioned over 11,000 times in court decisions in Azerbaijan. This was very commendable, and evidence that the Convention was being taken seriously in courts. Measures taken to respond to violence in home and schools were welcome, as was legislation to protect children from harmful legislation.
However, Mr. Chophel raised concerns about underreporting of violence against children, the prevalence of sexual exploitation and grooming of children online, and the lack of explicit prohibition of corporal punishment. What measures were in place to address these issues? Did the State have plans to create legislation regarding online sexual exploitation? What measures were in place to build the capacities of social workers and law enforcement officials dealing with children? Why was shooting dogs in public permitted? Legislation needed to be changed to prevent children from witnessing such shootings.
Legislation prohibiting child marriage had led to a large decrease in the number of girls under 18 who were married. However, there were still unregistered religious unions of children. What measures were in place to identify such unions, prevent them and prosecute those responsible? How would the State strengthen funding of the child helpline to ensure that it functioned effectively, and raise awareness about it amongst children?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that in 2018, legislation to provide free legal assistance to vulnerable families was drafted, and this legislation was currently being considered. Free legal assistance would be provided to all children in need under this legislation.
Azerbaijan was considering the possibility of ratifying the third Optional Protocol to the Convention.
One million manats would be invested in improving the databank on children in 2023. The databank would be hosted on a secure Government server to protect children’s data.
There were promotional campaigns underway on children’s rights, and a special training programme on children’s rights for public servants was being developed. Children were provided with education on their rights in schools. Short movies had also been produced on the rights of children.
Civil society organizations signed contracts with the Government concerning their financing. Legislation had been implemented to simplify the procedure for non-governmental organizations to obtain grants from foreign organizations; 150 million manats in grants had been provided to non-governmental organizations in recent years. There were 115 such organizations dealing with children’s rights.
The minimum age of employment was 15 years. Labour contracts were registered in a central database, and persons aged below 15 could not be registered. Persons responsible for forcing a child to work were held criminally liable.
No discrimination of children was permitted in Azerbaijan, and children born out of wedlock had equal rights with other children. The gender equality law prevented discrimination based on gender. The Government was increasing efforts to tackle sex-selective abortions.
Azerbaijan’s road safety laws were taught to children in kindergartens and schools. The State had replaced road signs and increased road markings to improve road safety.
Persons found to have abused animals were fined and punished in line with State legislation. Children were involved in campaigns encouraging the cessation of animal killings.
Children were elected to be ambassadors at child forums held once every three years. The decisions made at these forums were presented to Parliament.
Only one parent needed to apply to register the birth of a child, and relatives and trustees could also apply. A State policy was in place to digitise the registration of births and issuance of birth and death certificates. Medical institutions immediately passed information on births to the Ministry of Health. The period for registering a birth was one month. When births were not registered within this period, the civil servants responsible were held liable. All parents, regardless of nationality or migration status, had the right to receive their child’s birth certificate.
Veils were not permitted in schools. The “Aptitude for Life” subject addressed all religions. Multiculturalism was being taught in schools.
When abuse of children was found online, the Government requested Internet service providers to block that abusive content within a short period of time. In schools, Internet content was filtered to protect children from harmful content. Deliberately and seriously injuring a person was a criminal offence, and if the victim was a minor, punishments, including fines and jail time, were increased.
Special rooms were established within courts for interviewing children. Specialised training was provided to members of the judiciary regarding interviewing children.
The minimum age of marriage was defined in law as 18 years of age. The State Committee was considering removing exceptions allowing for underage marriage. Sociological surveys had been conducted to identify unofficial civil unions. Preventative measures had helped to reduce the rate of underage marriage by 2.6 times. Awareness campaigns on the harms of underage marriage were also underway. Each governmental agency was required to upload data on underage marriage to a central database. Each year for the past three years, Government agencies had helped to prevent 45 to 50 forced or underage marriages. Some 5,000 children had used support helplines in 2021, and over 1,000 children had been connected with social services through these helplines.
Questions by Committee Experts
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, asked for more information on how laws were implemented in practice. Who coordinated deinstitutionalisation policies and national strategies? How did the State communicate with businesses regarding their responsibilities? What types of information were blocked in educational institutions? How was the State trying to persuade families that boys and girls were equal? Did schools have student councils that discussed issues relevant to students?
RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that while significant progress had been made in tackling sexual abuse, there was still stigma surrounding discussions of sexual abuse. Were punishments issued to perpetrators of online sexual abuse? Mr. Chophel welcomed that animal butcheries were not permitted close to school grounds.
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, asked whether failure to register births could be due to inaction from parents.
Another Committee Expert asked whether children were involved in the slaughtering of animals. Was the population aware of the process for registering births? What was the rate of birth registration in Azerbaijan? What had the State done to promote birth registration during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to support unregistered children to obtain identity documents.
One Committee Expert asked whether there was a programme in place promoting positive parenting. Were children provided with guidance regarding which of the seven hotlines to use?
A Committee Expert commended the State for the large number of legislative acts implemented in line with the Convention. Were there examples of court cases referencing the Convention that had led to the revision of legislation? Could a child bring a legal case before the courts? Were children able to criticise the Government within the media? Did the Government recognise that children were able to act as human rights defenders?
BRAGI GUDBRANSSON, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, asked whether Azerbaijan had a policy for preventing the separation of children from their families. What measures were in place to promote the equal sharing of parental responsibilities between fathers and mothers?
The Government planned to introduce a new deinstitutionalisation programme. Which organization would oversee this programme? Did the Government monitor the foster care system? There were concerns that the best interests of the child were not considered when children were placed in institutions. Was legislation on residential care regularly reviewed? What strategies were in place to protect children from violence and discrimination in institutions? Did adopted children have access to information about their biological parents?
The State had made progress on decreasing infant and maternal mortality rates. What strategies were in place to further decrease mortality rates and train health workers? There were geographical disparities in terms of immunisation rates and access to quality healthcare. There were high levels of malnutrition in children, and low rates of breastfeeding. What measures were in place to promote breastfeeding, and to tackle sex-selective abortions? There were also high levels of soil, water and air pollution. Had the Government assessed the impact of climate crises on children’s health?
Children in rural areas had lower access to quality education. The dropout rate was also high. What measures were in place to address these issues? Were there strategies for enhancing teachers’ professional development? Reproductive health was poorly covered in schools. Were there plans to improve reproductive health education? Was the Government working to ensure that all schools had appropriate hygiene facilities? Were there programmes for strengthening students’ literary skills?
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that the State had adopted a law on children with disabilities in 2018 that promoted the human rights model of disability, but the medical model of disability persisted in some legislation. What measures had the State party taken to fully adopt a human rights approach to disability in legislation and policies? How was the Government supporting parents and caregivers of children with disabilities, and promoting the deinstitutionalisation of children with disabilities? What measures would the State party take to improve health services and early intervention services, and to combat the stigma of children with disabilities? To what extent did the State provide inclusive education?
RINCHEN CHOPHEL, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, congratulated the State party for the adoption of the Migration Code in 2013, and on amendments to legislation on refugee status. What was being done to prevent all detention of child asylum seekers and ensure timely identification procedures for such children? Did the State ensure that unaccompanied minors had access to necessary assistance and legal aid?
Mr. Chophel noted that there had been a decrease in child labour. What further measures were planned to eliminate child labour and strengthen the monitoring of workplaces? There was a lack of data on children living and working in the streets. How many children were homeless in Azerbaijan, and how many social workers had been trained to work with such children? Did the State promote family reunification for homeless children? Azerbaijan was a transit country for forced labour and trafficking of children. Mr. Chophel welcomed the action plan in place on preventing trafficking of children. What achievements had the plan made? Could the State party provide data on persons prosecuted for trafficking crimes?
What was the status of development of legislation covering the second Optional Protocol to the Convention?
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that reform to the child justice system had been pending since 2007. At what age were children subjected to criminal liability? Did the State intend to change the approach of the child justice system to a social care approach? When would legislation on child-friendly court procedures be adopted? Did the State promote restorative justice methods for children, and alternatives to custodial services? How would the State ensure sustainable funding of the system? What protections were provided for child witnesses?
The Committee commended policies for the rehabilitation of child victims of the conflict with Armenia. What measures were in place to prevent harm to children in future military conflicts? Would Azerbaijan consider acceding to the Ottawa Treaty on the Clearing of Land Mines and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention? What measures were in place to support children who had been separated from their families due to the conflict?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said a new Ombudsperson appointed in 2019 had created a special division for child’s rights. New draft amendments to legislation on the Ombudsman had been prepared to allow the Ombudsman to conduct independent monitoring, and these had been adopted by Parliament.
An action plan had been adopted to counter domestic violence, protect victims, collect data on the phenomenon and ensure access to courts. Gender-based violence could be reported via a dedicated State hotline, and 25 children had reported using this hotline. Rules had been established regarding how victims should be treated by public officials.
The National Commission on Minors coordinated policies related to children. The Commission had established branches in local government offices and working groups to monitor children’s facilities, and had closed down one institution found to have infringed on children’s rights.
The State Labour Inspectorate and Environmental Agency monitored business activities. Businesses were held responsible for coordinating corporate social responsibility activities, including activities to raise children’s awareness of environmental issues and children’s rights.
There were 60 filters on Internet content provided at schools. These filters blocked pornographic, extremist and other offensive content and were in line with international standards. Internet service providers offered safe Internet services that blocked offensive content in homes. The Government made requests to social media platforms to remove offensive content on those platforms.
The “School Children’s Friend” project aimed to prevent bullying in schools. If children faced abuse at schools, they could report that abuse through a hotline and a dedicated letterbox placed in each school. The State was working to remove stigma regarding discussions on sexual abuse.
The Government had implemented legislation to prevent animal butcheries from being located close to children, and a hotline was in place to report such butcheries.
Any parent or relative could report a birth within one month. After one month had passed, a warning was sent and a fine issued to parents. A mobile app had been developed to request birth certificates and other identity documents.
A child could apply to courts to defend their own rights from age 16. Children aged 14 and 15 could also apply to courts, but could not defend themselves in court. Parents could apply to courts if their children were defamed on social media.
Rehabilitation services for children with disabilities were transitioning from a medical approach to a human rights approach. Training was provided for couples that wished to adopt children. The Government monitored the conditions within foster families. In 2023, the Government intended to provide foster services to 20,000 children. Over 63,000 families received social allowances in 2022. Standards for day care services had been established. Support was provided to persons leaving foster families and institutions to find work. Access to social services was more difficult in regional areas, so the Government was working to increase coverage of these services. There was only one shelter for victims of abuse outside of the capital, but the Government was working to establish more.
In the last four years, the Government had implemented four social packages covering 40 per cent of the population, amounting to 6 billion manats. The packages supported increased access to work for vulnerable persons. Social allowances for children had been increased by 67 per cent last year.
Good results had been achieved in decreasing child and maternal mortality. Over 6,000 screenings of new-born babies had been conducted. Each year, almost 40,000 school children participated in optional reproductive health classes. The Government had been providing information to the population on breastfeeding, and there had been an increase in breastfeeding in the last six months. A mental health centre had been established, and 15 State health care facilities in regions across the country had wards dedicated to children’s mental health.
A project to increase medical workers’ capacity was underway. Training courses was provided for over 700 medical workers twice per year and awareness raising materials had been produced as part of this project. Every five years, medical workers were tested and accredited.
Azerbaijan had introduced universal health coverage, and out-of-pocket payments had decreased from 75 per cent to 50 per cent. The Government aimed to bring this down to 30 per cent. It also aimed to update medical infrastructure and strengthen the quality of health care in rural areas. It issued financial incentives to qualified specialists who took up positions in rural areas. The average wage for doctors had greatly increased in recent years. At least one medical hospital was available in each region. Three mobile health clinics had also been established to provide medical services in rural villages. The Government intended to cover the entire country with mobile clinics within the next five years.
Amendments had been made to the law on inclusive education. Once approved, inclusive education would be implemented widely in schools. Staff of schools with inclusive education worked with the parents of children with disabilities to identify the needs of each child and provide appropriate support. School infrastructure would also be reviewed with a view to making schools more accessible.
The Ministry of Science and Education immediately investigated reasons why children dropped out of school, and worked to resolve issues in each case. There had been 17,000 dropouts last year. Since 2014, the Ministry had conducted diagnostic tests for teachers. The salaries of teachers who passed these tests was doubled. At least 30 teachers participated in qualification courses each year. A State agency for vocational education had been created, and 80 State-owned vocational education centres were in operation. The State was promoting ties between vocational education schools and employers. Around 3,500 of the 4,000 schools in the State had been refurbished in recent years. Almost 500 modern schools had been constructed in rural areas. Public spending on education had been increased 1.5 times. During lockdowns imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, televised classes were launched within a week and an online class platform was launched within a month. Over 60 per cent of schools had broadband Internet connections.
The Minister of Education was implementing a State programme promoting deinstitutionalisation. There were currently 55 State-owned institutions. A taskforce was studying the reasons why over 11,000 children had been placed in these facilities. The taskforce found that only 696 of these children stayed in these institutions full-time and 72 per cent of the children had been using these facilities to access education only. Around 30 per cent of the children had a disability. The State had a plan to reform these institutions. Alternatives to institutions were gradually being created. Special inclusive education classes were being created in regional schools to lessen the burden on institutions.
Questions by Committee Experts
JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that it was positive that Azerbaijan was training staff and promoting inclusive education. Far-reaching changes were needed to change from a medical model of education to a human rights-based model. Did the State have detailed plans for deinstitutionalisation and for promoting inclusive education, and had resources for those plans been assigned?
BRAGI GUDBRANSSON, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, said that the State party was efficiently managing projects, but had not paid enough attention to structural issues. Crimes against children needed to be investigated across the country. Such investigations required interventions from various bodies, and child-friendly rooms in courts alone were not sufficient. What other measures were in place to strengthen such investigations? It was a bad practice to remove children from parents in cases of divorce. Mr. Gudbransson called on the State party to rethink this policy.
Another Committee Expert expressed concern regarding rising cases of domestic violence. While increasing the number of shelters for victims was important, it was more important that strategies were put in place to prevent such violence. How could children who were forced into religious unions be sure that their rights were protected?
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, asked how children entered residential institutions. Did parents place their children in these institutions? Were there separate institutions for children who needed to be separated from their parents?
One Committee Expert commended the State party on progress made in improving healthcare. To what extent had the maternal and infant mortality rates dropped? Had measures been taken to monitor the storage conditions of vaccines? What measures were in place to care for children with respiratory infections? Was there an early detection mechanism in place for disabilities?
A Committee Expert asked whether children could exercise their right to express themselves, for example in protests or on social media.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that Azerbaijan planned to increase the number of child-friendly rooms in courts across the country. International experts had assessed the juvenile justice system and found that it conformed to international norms. Proposals to introduce child-friendly communication procedures were being discussed. The maximum period for which children could be deprived of liberty had been decreased from five years to two years. Reduced punishments were now issued to mothers with children below 14 years of age. Manuals on how children should be treated by probation services had been produced. Children in penitentiaries could contact their families via video link. Children below the age of three whose mothers were in penitentiaries could remain with them in these penitentiaries. Children aged eight to 13 were not held criminally liable if they committed a severe crime, but could be sent to correctional facilities.
Unaccompanied asylum seekers aged below 18 years were registered with guardianship agencies. Such persons were not detained while their cases were being assessed. Eight unaccompanied children had arrived in Azerbaijan and asylum had been granted to one. Refugee children of Chechen origin, like all refugee children, were provided with access to social services and education, and transport support to attend school. Refugees were provided with residence permits and could obtain Azerbaijani citizenship after a certain period. There were no recorded cases of migrant children being subjected to forced labour.
The Government had been protecting children from being killed in military conflicts; 12 children had died due to missile attacks committed by Armenia. Azerbaijan wanted to end illegal exploration of mines by Russian peacekeepers on Azerbaijani territory.
As one of the most mine-affected countries, Azerbaijan recognised the importance of a mine-free region. Armenia was a mine-producing country that continued to use mines against Azerbaijan. Armenia needed to consider acceding to international treaties on the use of mines. Azerbaijan would consider acceding to these international treaties when Armenia and other neighbouring States were willing to do so.
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for Azerbaijan, thanked the high-level delegation for participating in the dialogue. The Committee hoped that the concluding observations would be translated into the local language and transmitted to communities, officials and children. Ms. Todorova expressed hope that children would be considered as rights holders in Azerbaijan, and that authorities would encourage their active participation. She wished Azerbaijan well in implementing its action plans and the Committee’s concluding observations.
BAHAR MURADOVA, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue. She welcomed Experts’ criticisms to be included in the concluding observations, which would encourage the State to make further progress. Azerbaijan had untapped potential as a State, but its efforts in the past 30 years had been devoted to responding to conflicts. Azerbaijan would do its best to uphold its international responsibilities and cooperate with international organizations. Azerbaijani children needed to be protected and developed, and to fulfil their potential. The State was mobilising all its resources to support its citizens, ensure the safety and integrity of the State and promote freedom of expression. The Committee Experts had studied reports on Azerbaijan well and had presented issues to be addressed, as well as potential solutions to those problems. The State would try its best to resolve these issues in a systematic and comprehensive manner.
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