Lieutenant Ramil Safarov during the announcement of the verdict in Hungary, April 2006

Lieutenant Ramil Safarov during the announcement of the verdict in Hungary, April 2006

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg recognized Azerbaijan’s actions in the case of the murder by an Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov of an Armenian soldier Gurgen Margaryan in violation of two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Azerbaijan has been found to violate the 2nd and 14th articles of the European Convention on the right to life and the prohibition of discrimination. The court also emphasized the "approval and support" by Azerbaijan of Safarov’s crime.

At the same time, the ECHR refused to hold Azerbaijan responsible for Safarov’s crime. The violation refers specifically to the pardon of Safarov after extradition to Baku - this is the "unjustified non-execution" of the punishment for the murder. The court described the killing as ethnic hate crime, BBC notes. Azerbaijan is obliged to compensate legal expenses for the plaintiffs - relatives of Margaryan and his colleague Hayk Mukachyan - for 15 thousand pounds. The plaintiffs did not claim any financial compensation for themselves.

The second defendant in the case was Hungary, whose authorities extradited Safarov to Baku, but the ECHR found no violations in the actions of official Budapest.

Baku and Yerevan differently evaluate this decision on an extremely painful crime for the two peoples. Officers from Armenia and Azerbaijan Gurgen Margaryan and Ramil Safarov underwent military training in Hungary in 2004 as part of the NATO Partnership for Peace program. Safarov killed the sleeping Margaryan with an ax at night, for which a Hungarian court sentenced him to life imprisonment. Safarov explained his actions by the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and personal conflict with Margaryan.

Safarov spent eight years in prison, but in 2012, shortly after the visit of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Baku, Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan. Upon arrival in Azerbaijan, the officer was immediately pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev, received an apartment from the state, a promotion and salary for the years that he was in prison.

The ECHR’s decision in the case of Ramil Safarov does not impose any international legal obligations on Azerbaijan, Chingiz Asgarov, plenipotentiary representative of Azerbaijan to the European Court of Human Rights, told Trend.

Asgarov recalled that relatives of officers participating in those events in Budapest filed a complaint with the European Court against Azerbaijan and Hungary: “The Azerbaijani and Hungarian governments participated in this process as defendants. In fact, the European Court of Justice ruled on its case law. However, I fundamentally disagree with the interpretation of the decision by the Armenian side. This concerns the violation of the material aspect of the right to life."

He also noted that in order to assess the decision of the European Court, one should pay attention to the particular opinion of Pinto de Albuquerque, the judge representing Portugal in the ECHR: “If you consider his separate opinion, you can see what the Armenian side wanted from the decision of the European court. The Armenian side wanted to achieve recognition of the international legal responsibility of Azerbaijan in the matter of the material aspect of the right to life. The second defendant in the case was Hungary, whose authorities extradited Safarov to Baku, but the ECHR found no violations in the actions of official Budapest. In other words, Ramil Safarov was legally extradited by the Hungarian government to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan actually accepted him in accordance with the provision of the Convention. This is the main thing to consider in the decision of the European Court. However, the most interesting thing in the end of the dissenting opinion of the Portuguese judge. He believes that justice for the victims will be restored, and that this case will be referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court, and the court will find all the “desired” violations of the Convention. That is, this particular opinion of the judge is impartial. ”

Azerbaijan’s plenipotentiary added that it is premature to talk about steps that will be taken by the Azerbaijani government: “The decision has only been published today (yesterday - ed.) Azerbaijan has 3 months to consider transferring the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court. I want to note that this decision, from the point of view of general measures, does not impose any obligations on the Azerbaijani side. There are only individual measures, which consist in the fact that the Azerbaijani government will pay the legal costs to the applicants, i.e. the work of their lawyers. No compensation, including pecuniary or non-pecuniary damage, was not established in the decision. Therefore, now it is difficult to say whether any action will be taken to appeal the decision in the European Court further. ”

According to Asgarov, “in the future, of course, the Armenian side will lobby for this decision in order to somehow use it against Azerbaijan in any European political structures. I would like to note once again that in any case, this decision does not impose any international legal obligations on Azerbaijan. ”

"The political background of the lawsuit is quite obvious. Judging by the nature of the lawsuit, the Armenian side wanted to achieve recognition of Azerbaijan’s international legal responsibility in the aspect of the right to life. It is about creating a judicial precedent that the Armenian side could use in its possible subsequent actions against Azerbaijan, "said Azerbaijani political analyst Ilgar Velizade. The decision of the ECHR in the case of Ramil Safarov essentially deprived the Armenian side of any prospects for action in this direction, Velizade said.

Armenia differently interpreted the ECHR decision. Lawyer Siranush Sahakyan announced this verdict during a press conference. According to Sahakyan, no matter how many critical statements have been voiced on political and diplomatic platforms, the killer still goes unpunished.

“It was at this crucial stage that we initiated the process of discussing the responsibility of Azerbaijan in international courts. Hungarian courts did not attribute Safarov’s actions to the Azerbaijani state, and the incident remained private. That is, we have a victim - an Armenian in the person of Gurgen Margaryan and Hayk Makuchyan, and a killer who was punished, and only questions of serving the sentence arise,” she said.

“In this case, we have changed the plane of the issue, and at the moment we have an episode of responsibility for the policy of Azerbaijan and human rights. The first achievement of this resolution is that the state was held accountable for impunity, and the target of all further measures that will be required is not the murderer, but the state of Azerbaijan,” she said.

According to her, this is the first ruling of the International Court of Justice, which states the manifestation of anti-Armenian discrimination, hatred by the Azerbaijani state and the legal consequences of this decision should be that Azerbaijan should ensure the elimination of anti-Armenian discrimination over time.

“Since the verdict found a violation of the right to life, it should be followed by measures that will ensure the actual execution of the verdict by the killer. In fact, this matter is much more significant for the state than for the family.

Official Azerbaijan expressed its position through the mouth of the press secretary of the country's Foreign Ministry Leyla Abdullayeva. Until the ECHR’s decision on the case “Chigarov v. Armenia” of 2015 is implemented, official Yerevan has no moral right to put forward any demands on Azerbaijan with respect to the implementation of the decisions of the Strasbourg court, she said.

Armenia’s intention to use the European Court as an instrument in the slanderous campaign against Azerbaijan and its attempts to politicize this institution and involve it in a propaganda campaign should be rejected. “As regards the findings of the European Court, it can be said that the court did not actually satisfy the basic intention of Armenia. Thus, the decision of the Court does not require the annulment of the decision on pardon, which is the main subject of the dispute, or the resumption of the case against the person concerned. On the other hand, the material claim for a material violation of the right to life article was rejected,” the official representative of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, continued.

She drew attention to the fact that "the essential aspect of Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention was not violated by the Government of Azerbaijan." That is, according to the European Court, Ramil Safarov acted individually, and did not represent the government of Azerbaijan when committing actions. Thus, the Azerbaijani government cannot bear international legal responsibility for these actions.

At the same time, the decision should have reflected that Safarov, an officer of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, was born in August 1993 in the Jabrail region of Azerbaijan, occupied by the Armenian armed forces, lost loved ones during the war, as a teenager he knew all the hardships of the life of an internally displaced person.

As for the release of Safarov immediately after his extradition, the practice of pardon is widespread in the world and, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan; the head of state has the right to do so.

Abdullayeva noted the only way to put an end to hostility between the two peoples is to eliminate the consequences of the conflict, that is, to withdraw the occupying forces from the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan and ensure the basic rights of hundreds of thousands of people displaced from these territories. Ramil Safarov was the victim of this policy.

She recalled the ECHR decision of 2015 in the case of “Chiragov and others v. Armenia” on the application of six internally displaced persons from the Lachin region. The ECHR found violations of property rights; the right to respect for private and family life; the right to an effective remedy for applicants represented by refugees from the Lachin region of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia. The Strasbourg court found Armenia responsible for this and ordered the victims to be compensated. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry believes that before demanding our country to satisfy any desires, Armenia must comply with the European Court’s verdict in the Chiragov case.

Kamal Ali

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