The Expert Council on NGO Law was created in January 2008 by the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe. It aims to create an enabling environment for NGOs through examining national NGO legislation and its implementation and provides advice on how to bring national law and practice into line with Council of Europe standards and European good practice. It provides specific follow-up to a positive declaration on civil society’s role made by the Council of Europe Summit of 2005 and to a forward-looking Recommendation adopted in 2007 by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers setting a framework for the legal status of NGOs in Europe (CM/Rec(2007)14).
In 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 the Expert Council carried out thematic studies on specific aspects of NGO legislation and its implementation, covering the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe.
In 2011 the Expert Council reviewed its mode of functioning and its outreach, in order to be an ever-more relevant contributor from the civil society viewpoint to the promotion of the Council of Europe's core values, namely the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
In this context the Conference of INGOs became aware that the legislation governing NGOs in Azerbaijan had been subject to amendments that seemed to pose problems of conformity with international standards, notably the European Convention on Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe. Moreover, the implementation of the revised Azerbaijani legislation also seemed to be in contradiction with a number of these standards. The Standing Committee of the INGO Conference therefore asked the Expert Council in April 2011 to review all these matters and prepare an Opinion on the amendments in 2009 to the NGO Law in Azerbaijan and their application, with the intention of informing the Conference of INGOs and affording an opportunity for the Azerbaijani authorities to respond to the conclusions of the Opinion and take any appropriate action.
The Expert Council on NGO Law presented its opinion on 8 September 2011 to the authorities of Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan responded with its remarks concerning the opinion in a letter of 30 March 2012. The Expert Council replied to this letter on 12 April 2012. Please find below both documents.
The aforementioned Expert Council's opinion was presented at a seminar in Baku in April 2012, together with the opinion of the European Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe (Venice Commission). Please find the Venice Commission opinion below.
Following a period of evaluation and the approval in January 2012 of a report by the President of the Expert Council on "The future role and operations of the Expert Council on NGO Law, the Conference of INGOs reaffirmed the position of the Expert Council as one of its main organs contributing to all the core values of the Council of Europe.
Mr Cyril Ritchie
President of the Expert Council