The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on Tuesday that it was lawful when Hungary extradited an Azerbaijani national – convicted for murder in Budapest back in 2004 – to his home country, and the decision was not against international law. In the same ruling, however, the Strasbourg court condemned Azerbaijan for releasing the murderer, a former member of the Azerbaijani army, Ramil Safarov, after his arrival to the country.
Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani military officer, was attending a NATO course in Hungary back in 2004, when he killed an Armenian army officer, Gurgen Margaryan, another participant in the course. Safarov killed and all but decapitated the Armenian soldier in his sleep with an axe. A Hungarian court sentenced him to life imprisonment for first degree, premeditated murder with a minimum incarceration period of 30 years. However, after his request under the Strasbourg Convention, Hungary extradited the murderer to Baku in 2012. When Safarov returned to Azerbaijan, he was hailed a hero, he was given a presidential pardon, received eight years back pay and was even promoted. According to Azerbaijani authorities, Safarov was pardoned in compliance with Article 12 of the Convention.
The family of the Armenian victim Margaryan, and Hayk Makuchyan, another Armenian participant of the NATO course – who Safarov did not kill, only because his door was closed – sued Azerbaijan and Hungary in Strasbourg at the European Court of Human Rights for the Hungarian decision to extradite the murderer to his home country as well as for the decision of Azerbaijan to pardon him.
On Tuesday, the court ruled that Hungarian authorities may not have been aware that the convict could be pardoned in Azerbaijan and declared Hungary as acting in good faith, and quoted insufficient evidence of flawed criminal proceedings in Hungary. The court said that there was “no failure by Hungary to ensure that Azerbaijani national would continue to serve his prison sentence upon transfer to his home country, and the procedure set out in the Council of Europe Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons followed in entirety.
However, the dissenting judge argued that the authorities were aware of the likelihood that Ramil Safarov would be granted a pardon by the Azerbaijani Government, saying that the “court should not turn a blind eye to reality.” He further added that Hungary should have been more cautious when receiving informal assurances from Azerbaijan in such a politically laden case.
Azerbaijan, however, has been obliged to pay an indemnification of GBP 15,000 to the defendants. According to the court, Azerbaijan had violated several passages of the European Convention on Human Rights when it pardoned and released Safarov. The ruling added that it was not clear if Safarov had committed the murder on instructions from his superiors or of his own accord.
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