Gurgen Margaryan’s body returned to Armenia in 2004. Photolur

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) once again found Azerbaijan in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The latest ruling concerns the pardon and promotion of Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov extradited to Azerbaijan by Hungary in 2012.

Safarov received a life prison sentence for killing his Armenian classmate Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest, Hungary in 2004. According to Hungarian court proceedings, Margaryan was asleep in his dorm room with his door unlocked, when Safarov approached his bed and struck him repeatedly with an axe he bought days before.

The current case was initiated in 2013 by Margaryan’s relatives and fellow classmate Hayk Makuchyan, who was also targeted by Safarov. The plaintiffs did not seek financial compensation, but Azerbaijan has been ordered to pay their legal fees.

ECHR’s ruling noted that “the Court is satisfied that the applicants have put forward sufficiently strong, clear and concordant inferences as to make a convincing prima facie case that the measures taken by the Azerbaijani authorities in respect of R.S. were racially motivated.

“Azerbaijans unjustified failure to enforce prison sentence for ethnic hate crime, imposed abroad on its officer, who was pardoned, promoted and awarded benefits upon return; Resulting impunity [is] incompatible with States obligation to effectively deter the commission of offences against lives.”

At the same time, the Court did not endorse plaintiffs’ claims that Safarov acted on behalf of Azerbaijani government and also found charges against the Hungarian government, questioning the motives behind the murderer’s transfer to Azerbaijan, to be lacking in evidence. 

Hungarian media noted that more than $7 million in laundered Azerbaijani funds began showing up in Hungarian banks in July 2012, just weeks before Safarov’s extradition. And Novruz Mamedov, aide to president Ilham Aliyev, said that the transfer was part of a deal made with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban.

As a result, Armenia broke off diplomatic relations with Hungary. For his part, Orban continued to regularly visit with Aliyev. Last month, the Hungarian state-controlled MOL finalized the acquisition of a minority share in Azerbaijan’s main oil and gas project, a $1.57bn transaction.

This is the second European Court ruling against Azerbaijan this year that directly relates to the Karabakh conflict. In January, ECHR found the Azerbaijani government responsible for the death of Armenian civilian Manvel Saribekyan in 2010.