ECHR: Azerbaijan failed to enforce jail term for hate crime against Armenian

ECHR: Azerbaijan failed to enforce jail term for hate crime against Armenian

PanARMENIAN.Net - The European Court of Human rights ruled on Tuesday, May 26 that Azerbaijan has failed to enforce prison sentence for an ethnic hate crime in which an Armenian army officer was killed with an axe by an Azerbaijani counterpart in Hungary in 2004.

Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan was murdered in February 2004 by Ramil Safarov, while both men were attending a three-month Nato English-language training course in the Hungarian capital. At Safarov’s subsequent trial, he said he was motivated by hatred for Armenia and Armenians, due to the war between the two countries. He was jailed for life by the Budapest court. However, in 2012 Hungary sent Safarov back to Azerbaijan to complete his sentence. On arrival, he was promptly pardoned, released and given a hero’s welcome.

In the judgment, the Court cited Azerbaijan’s unjustified failure to enforce prison sentence for ethnic hate crime, imposed abroad on its officer, who was pardoned, promoted and awarded benefits upon return; lack of legal basis for military promotion and other benefits; and resulting impunity incompatible with the State’s obligation to effectively deter the commission of offences against lives.

However, it said, while Azerbaijan has approved and endorsed crimes committed by its agent in private capacity, there has been no clear and unequivocal “acknowledgement” and “adoption” of crimes “as its own”.

Also, the Court ruled, there is no evidence that Hungarian authorities were or should have been aware that the convicted prisoner would be released in Azerbaijan.

The final two parts were contested by one judge, Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque, who said that Azerbaijan has, in fact, acknowledged and adopted the conduct of Safarov as its own, according to the factual circumstances evidenced in the file.

The judge also said that Hungary was aware of the likelihood that Safarov would be granted a pardon. According to him, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was questioned about the Azerbaijani officer in a press conference shortly after his release and stated as follows:

“There was coordination within the entire government about this ... Each ministry presented its opinion, the justice ministry about the legal side and the foreign ministry about the diplomatic consequences. ... The foreign ministry had forecast precisely what types of consequences this or the other decision may have. Nothing happened after our decision that we would not have reckoned with in advance.”

The Court ruled that Azerbaijan has to pay the applicants £15,143 for costs and expenses.

During the three-month period following its delivery, any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

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