ECHR ruling in Armenian Officer Gurgen Margaryan murder case appealed

Armenia has referred the European Court ruling in Gurgen Margayan murder case to the Grand Chamber. The appeal has been filed by lawyers of the applicants Siranush Sahakyan and Levon Grigoryan.

The Court ruled in May 2020 that Azerbaijan violated the European Convention on Human Rights by releasing an extradited officer who had murdered an Armenian soldier during training in Hungary.

The Court found that although Azerbaijan had clearly endorsed Ramil Safarov’s acts, not only by releasing him but also by promoting him, paying him salary arrears and granting him a flat upon his return, it could not be held responsible under the stringent standards of international law which required a State to “acknowledge” such acts “as its own”.

However, it found that there had been no justification for the Azerbaijani authorities’ failure to enforce the punishment of Ramil Safarov and to in effect grant him impunity for a serious hate crime.

In January 2004, Gurgen Margaryan and Hayk Makuchyan travelled to Budapest to attend a NATO-sponsored, English-language course. The two men, along with participants from each of the former Soviet Socialist Republics, including Azerbaijan, were provided with accommodation by the Hungarian University of National Defense.

On 19 February 2004, one of the Azerbaijani participants, Ramil Safarov, murdered Gurgen Margaryan while he slept by decapitating him with sixteen blows of an axe. Safarov then tried to break into Hayk Makuchyan’s room, shouting ethnic slurs, but was quickly apprehended by the police.

Ramil Safarov later admitted that he had murdered Gurgen Margaryan on account of his Armenian origin. He showed no remorse for the killing.

It emerged during the criminal proceedings that Ramil Safarov had purchased an axe in a local store with a view to killing both of the Armenian soldiers in order to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On 13 April 2006, the Budapest City Court found Ramil Safarov guilty of the premeditated murder of Gurgen Margaryan and preparation for the murder of Hayk Makuchyan. He was sentenced to life imprisonment (with the possibility of conditional release after 30 years) and his sentence was to be served in a Hungarian prison.

Ramil Safarov’s repeated requests to be transferred to Azerbaijan, in order to serve his prison sentence there, were initially refused by the Hungarian authorities. But the Hungarian Minister of Justice ultimately approved Safarov’s renewed request in August 2012.

On 31 August 2012, Ramil Safarov was transferred to Azerbaijan in agreement with Hungary under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. He was met with a heroes’ welcome upon his arrival in Baku. A few hours later, he was pardoned by President Ilham Aliyev, promoted to the rank of major, awarded eight years of salary arrears, and offered an apartment

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