September 28, during the first autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Anne Brasseur gave mixed assessment of progress in human rights throughout Europe in her opening address.
"Today, as we prepare to award the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for the third time, I am sorry to report that the dream of Vaclav Havel and indeed of the great Europeans who founded the Council of Europe, the dream of a Europe united by a belief in democracy and human rights, is still a long way from being fully realized".
"In some member States, human rights defenders and civil society activists face a whole range of problems. Restrictive laws, complex and inappropriate administrative procedures and even worse, pressure, intimidation and reprisals... Unfortunately, all too often, human rights defenders and NGOs are forced to operate in extremely difficult conditions, or even illegaly and in secret".
Brasseur mentioned her consistent efforts in calling for the release of all political prisoners held in Europe. From the first winner of the Vaclav Havel Prize Ales Bialiatski to Anar Mammadli, the winner of the award last year . "Mr. Anar Mammadli is still in detention in Azerbaijan and I am sorry that I was not able to see him during my visit to the country".
The head of the PACE noted Azerbaijan's deteriorating rights record in her speech as well questioning the willingness of Azerbaijani authorities in respecting "the fundamental values of the Council of Europe".
The arrest and the sentence of Leyla and Arif Yunus as well as Khadija Ismayilova were also mentioned in her remarks.
Anne Brasseur also spoke of her efforts in changing the mind of the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure ODIHR observation mission is fully deployed during the upcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. However her efforts did not lead to any results.
In the meantime, Brasseur mentioned the Assembly Bureau decision to send an election observation mission to Baku on November 1, 2015.
"In my opinion, however, and I am speaking here purely for myself, unless the long- and short-term ODIHR observers are present, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for our ad hoc committee to make a thorough and comprehensive assessment as to whether the election is consistent with our standards and with Azerbaijan's commitments to the Council of Europe", said Brasseur.