PACE Committee Slams Baku over Safarov Release

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)


STRASBOURG—The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights condemned the pardoning and release of sentenced axe murderer Ramil Safarov, calling it “a violation of the principles of good faith in international relations and of the rule of law.”

Azeri officer Ramil Safarov was sentenced to life in prison in Hungary after murdering an Armenian officer in his sleep with an axe while at a NATO-led educational camp in 2004. In 2012, Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan under the pretext that his sentence would continue there. Instead, he was immediately pardoned by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev upon his arrival in Baku and given a hero’s welcome, as well as a retroactive promotion in rank and other rewards.

Following Safarov’s pardon, Yerevan severed diplomatic ties with Hungary.

Article 12 of the international Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons — to which every Council of Europe member state is a signatory — provides for the transfer of foreign prisoners to their home countries. Its purpose is primarily humanitarian, to improve prospects of rehabilitation and reintegration of prison inmates into society.

The PACE Committee’s adopted draft resolution, based on the report by Christopher Chope, notes with concern that the Convention was invoked in order to justify the immediate release upon transfer to Azerbaijan of Ramil Safarov.

The text underlines that the Convention “is not designed to be used for the immediate release of prisoners upon return to their own country.” It underscores the importance of “applying the Convention in good faith and, in interpreting its provisions, adhering to the principles of the rule of law,” in particular in transfer cases that might entail political or diplomatic implications.

The draft resolution should be presented for debate to the Assembly later in 2014.

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