Azerbaijan: SOCAR should be accountable to parliament – UN body

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The committee for business and human rights, operating under the UN Council for Human Rights, has called on the Azeri government to make SOCAR accountable to the country’s Parliament.

The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, which owns 20% of the shares in ElectroGas Malta – the company running the new gas fired power station at Delimara – has come under scrutiny of a United Nations human rights committee, which is calling for more accountability.

The committee for business and human rights, operating under the UN Council for Human Rights, has called on the Azeri government to make the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) accountable to the country’s Parliament.

SOCAR will be Malta’s main supplier of natural gas for the next 18 years and has also teamed up with British Petroleum to link the country’s gas fields to Europe through a pipeline passing through Turkey and the Adriatic sea to link with Italy.

Questions on its secretive business model have been raised by NGO Global Witness in a report which reveals that private individuals could be benefiting from the company’s opaque structures at the expense of the citizens of Azerbaijan.

“To reinforce public trust that natural resources are being well managed and for the benefit of all, and avoid any perception that State-owned and controlled companies may be involved in any human rights abuses, we suggest that the corporate governance structure of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) include greater accountability and transparency to Parliament,” the UN working group said in a statement issued after a visit to Azerbaijan last week.

“For example, deputies could have an authority to consider from time to time any commercial Production Sharing Agreement contracts requiring immediate implementation”, the mission says.

In the past days Azerbaijan has come under increasing criticism for jailing political prisoners.

Last month, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the growing tendency to prosecute prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.

“We are appalled by the increasing incidents of surveillance, interrogation, arrest, sentencing on the basis of trumped-up charges, assets-freezing and ban on travel of the activists in Azerbaijan,” they said. “The criminalisation of rights activists must stop. Those who were unjustifiably detained for defending rights should be immediately freed.”

SOURCE: Malta Today, September 4th 2014: http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/43117/socar_should_be_more_ac...