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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Azerbaijan is a republic with a presidential form of government. The Constitution established a system of government based on a division of powers among a strong presidency, a legislature with the power to approve the budget and impeach the President, and an independent judiciary. The executive branch is made up of the President, his Apparat, a Prime Minister, and the Cabinet of Ministers; the legislative branch consists of the 125-member Parliament (Milli Majlis). Members are elected for 5-year terms, with 100 of them elected from territorial districts and 25 elected from party lists; and the judicial branch.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice, judges do not function independently of the executive branch, and the judiciary widely is believed to be corrupt and inefficient. Courts of general jurisdiction may hear criminal, civil, and juvenile cases. District and municipal courts try the overwhelming majority of cases. The Supreme Court also may act as the court of first instance, depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime.

The Constitutional Court has exhibited some independence in the past few years. In 2000 the Court reregistered the opposition Azerbaijan Democratic Party after a long appeal process. The Court also declared unconstitutional the retroactive application of a clause in the election law that required parties to be registered 6 months in advance of the announcement of the elections. It voided the results in four districts (in addition to the several voided by the Central Election Commission) following flawed parliamentary elections in November 2000.

Cases at the district court level are tried before a panel consisting of one judge and two lay assessors. The judge presides over and directs trials. The President appoints Supreme and Constitutional Court judges, who are then subject to confirmation by the Parliament. Lower level judges are appointed by the President without confirmation. The Government organizes prosecutors into offices at the district, municipal, and republic level. They are ultimately responsible to the Minister of Justice, are appointed by the President, and are confirmed by Parliament.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Azerbaijani Government's human rights record remained poor in 2001. The Government continued to restrict citizens' ability to change their government peacefully. Some prison inmates and detainees died in part due to mistreatment by the authorities. Police tortured and beat persons in custody and used excessive force to extract confessions. Arbitrary arrest and detention was a problem. In most instances, the Government took no action to punish abusers, although perpetrators were prosecuted in a few cases. Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening, and some prisoners died as a result of these conditions. Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. The judiciary is subject to outside influence. The Government continued to hold a number of political prisoners. Some local nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) reported that the Government held approximately 200-300 political prisoners, although others claimed the number was much higher. A number of these individuals were convicted of alleged participation in armed efforts to overthrow the Government. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights.

The Government continued to restrict freedom of speech and of the press, and the press faced increased harassment during the year. Government officials repeatedly sued journalists for defamation, arrested them, and shut down their newspapers. As a result, journalists practiced self-censorship. The Government largely controlled radio and television, the primary source of information for most of the population. During December the Government took significant steps towards improving the media, including the announcement that five private television stations would be granted long sought-after operating licenses by the frequencies committee. The Government restricted freedom of assembly and forcibly dispersed some demonstrations. The Government continued to restrict freedom of association and refused to register some political parties. Opposition political parties have been evicted from their offices, and security officials harassed their members, especially in outlying areas. There were restrictions and abuses of religious freedom, and harassment of some "non-traditional" religious groups by lower-level and local government officials continued. The Government criticized and harassed certain domestic human rights activists, and non-transparent registration procedures resulted in numerous delays and denials of the registration of human rights and many other groups. Violence and discrimination against women and discrimination against certain religious and ethnic minorities was a problem. The Government limited some worker rights. Trafficking in persons was a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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