European Court to deliver judgement on Gurgen Margaryan murder case

Tomorrow, on Tuesday, 26 May, an important judgment will be delivered on the case of two Armenian national against Azerbaijan and Hungary.

The case concerns the presidential pardon given to a convicted murderer and his release following his transfer from Hungary to Azerbaijan to serve the rest of his sentence. 

The applicants are two Armenian nationals, Hayk Makuchyan and Samvel Minasyan, who is now deceased, who were born in 1975 and 1958 respectively. 

Mr Minasyan’s widow and their two children are pursuing the case in his stead. 

In 2004, Mr Makuchyan and Mr Minasyan’s nephew, Gurgen Margaryan, both members of the Armenian military, attended an English-language course in Budapest organised by the NATO-sponsored “Partnership for Peace” programme. The course included two participants from each of the former Soviet states, including Azerbaijan. 

During the course, R.S., a member of the Azerbaijani military, murdered Mr Minasyan’s nephew while he was asleep by decapitating him with an axe. R.S. also tried to break into Mr Makuchyan’s room before being arrested by the Hungarian police. 

R.S. was convicted of exceptionally cruel and premeditated murder and preparation of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Hungarian courts, with a possibility of conditional release after 30 years. During the criminal proceedings R.S. showed no remorse, admitting that he had murdered Mr Minasyan’s nephew on account of his Armenian origin and because the Armenian participants in the course had provoked and mocked him. 

In 2012, following a request by the Azerbaijani authorities, Ramil Safarov was transferred to Azerbaijan, in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to serve the rest of his sentence. 

However, upon his arrival in Azerbaijan, R.S. was informed that he had received a presidential pardon and was released. He was also promoted to the rank of major at a public ceremony, granted a flat and paid eight years of salary arrears. 

The applicants allege that Azerbaijan was responsible for substantive and procedural violations of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights because the attack had been carried out by an Azerbaijani military officer and because he had been granted a pardon which prevented the full enforcement of his sentence.

They complain that Hungary also violated Article 2 of the Convention by granting and executing the request for the officer’s transfer without obtaining adequate binding assurances that he would complete his prison sentence in Azerbaijan. 

They further allege under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 2 that the attack was an ethnically motivated hate crime which the Azerbaijani Government had acknowledged and endorsed by granting the officer a presidential pardon and a promotion. 

Lastly, the applicants complain that both Governments failed to disclose documents requested by them in the proceedings before the Strasbourg Court, in breach of Article 38 (obligation to furnish necessary facilities for examination of the case).

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