BRUSSELS — The European Parliament condemned Azerbaijan late on Thursday for pardoning and giving a hero’s welcome to the Azerbaijani army officer who axed to death an Armenian colleague in Hungary more than eight years ago.
In a special resolution, the European Union’s legislative body said President Ilham Aliyev’s decision to free, promote and financially reward Ramil Safarov immediately after his extradition from Hungary “could contribute to further escalation of the tensions” between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The resolution accuses Aliyev’s government of reneging on “diplomatic assurances” that Safarov will serve out his life sentence, given by a Hungarian court in 2006, in Azerbaijan. It cites in this regard a letter sent by Azerbaijan’s Deputy Justice Minister Vilayat Zahirov, to the Hungarian government on August 15, two weeks before the convict’s repatriation.
The Azerbaijani and Hungarian governments say the handover was carried out on the basis of the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
EU lawmakers did not challenge these assertions or fault the Hungarian government for repatriating Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian’s axe-murderer, aiming their criticism only at Baku. They said that Safarov’s pardoning “complies with the letter” of the convention but “runs contrary to the spirit of that international agreement.”
Their resolution goes on to deplore “the promotion and recognition [Safarov] has received from the Azerbaijani state.” It adds that “the frustration in Azerbaijan and Armenia over the lack of any substantial progress as regards the peace process in Nagorno-Karabakh does not justify either acts of revenge or futile provocations that add further tension to an already tense and fragile situation.”
The European Parliament further called on the EU to play a “stronger role” in the Karabakh peace process by supporting confidence-building measures between the conflicting parties.
Below is the text of the resolution:
The European Parliament,
-having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Azerbaijan on 5 May 2012, in particular those concerning human rights,
-having regard to the established practice of the international law regarding transfer, the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which co-operation was agreed in order to further the ends of justice and the social rehabilitation of sentenced persons, by giving them the opportunity to serve their sentences within their own society,
-having regard to the statement (of 3 September 2012) by the spokespersons of the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Štefan Füle on the release of Ramil Safarov,
-having regard to various statements and communications of the Hungarian Government Authorities in which they gave explicit assurances that Hungary acted in accordance with the international law, obligations and good practices,
-having regard to Rules 122(5) and 110(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas Azerbaijan is an elected non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2012 for two years, as well as the member of the Council of Europe in which it will assume the Presidency of the Committee of the Ministers in 2014;
B. whereas the Azerbaijani citizen Ramil Safarov have been given to a life sentence for the brutal murder of an Armenian soldier, Gurgen Markarian, which he committed during his stay at the military academy in Budapest in 2004, where both attended the English-language courses organised by NATO,
C. whereas Ramil Safarov has requested – pursuant to the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons – his transfer to Azerbaijan in order to serve his sentence in Azerbaijan,
D. whereas the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to which Hungary and Azerbaijan are both signatory parties, states in article 9. that a person sentenced in the territory of one state may be transferred to the territory of another in order to serve the sentence imposed on him, provided that conditions laid by the Convention are met,
E. whereas the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Vilayat Zahirov, sent an official letter to the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary on 15 August 2012, in which he stated that the execution of the court’s decisions of the foreign states regarding the transfer of sentenced persons to serve the remaining part of their prison sentences in the Republic of Azerbaijan are carried out in accordance with Article 9 paragraph 1 point a) of the Convention and without any conversion of the court’s sentence. He further gave an assurance that according to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan the punishment of a convict who is serving a life sentence could only be replaced by a court with an imprisonment for defined period or could be released on conditional parole, only after at least 25 years of the prison have been served,
F. whereas immediately upon the transfer of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pardoned Ramil Safarov in line with the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and article 12 of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to which no reference was made in the letter noted in paragraph E,
G. whereas the presidential pardon given in such a short time questions the original motives of the demand for the transfer of Ramil Safarov, is not in line of the letter of the Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Justice, Vilayat Zahirov, of 15 August 2012, and undermines the objective of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons which provides for the conditions to serve the remaining of the sentence in different state;
H. whereas Ramil Safarov, after his release from prison, was promoted to the rank of major, was given an apartment and all the pay he had lost since his arrest, and was accorded popular recognition throughout the country,
I. whereas the Republic of Armenia has suspended its diplomatic ties with Hungary on 31 August 2012,
1. Deplores the decision by the President of Azerbaijan to grant pardon to Ramil Safarov, regarded by some as a gesture that could contribute to further escalation of the tensions and widens the feelings of injustice that have arisen from the unresolved conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh, and expresses its hope that the President of Azerbaijan and the President of Armenia will refrain from acts that do not contribute to the reconciliation between the states of the Southern Caucasus;
2. Is concerned about the publicity given to Ramil Safarov, sentenced murderer, upon his arrival in Azerbaijan, its impact of this as an example for future generations and the promotion and recognition he received from the Azerbaijani state; and is further concerned that this act threatens all peaceful reconciliation processes within the societies affected, undermines future possibilities of the evolvement of a peaceful people-to-people contact in the region,
3. Notes that in 2001 Armenia gave a free pardon to Varoujan Garabedian, sentenced to life imprisonment by France in 1985 for terrorism, on his transfer to Armenia,
4. Recalls that overemotional responses, emotional acts from the Armenian side are not contributing to a peaceful solution in the long term, therefore calls for calm,
5. Encourages the authorities of Azerbaijan and Armenia to strengthen their efforts for the reconciliation between the two nations and the region;
6. Recalls its position that the Association Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan, currently being negotiated, should include clauses and benchmarks on the protection and promotion of human rights,
7. Urges the Azerbaijani authorities to step up its efforts to reform all aspects of the judicial system on the basis of the rule of law: prosecution, trial, sentencing, detention and appeals;
8. Calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to comply with all rulings of the European Court on Human Rights concerning Azerbaijan;9. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the EEAS, the Governments and Parliaments of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the EU Member States.