PACE Condemns Azerbaijan’s Use of Prisoner Transfer Treaty in Safarov Release

Ramil Safarov was hailed as a hero in Azerbaijan for murdering an Armenian soldier


STRASBOURG, France—The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned the use of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons by Azerbaijan to release and pardon of convicted Azeri axe-murderer Ramil Safarov after his transfer to Azerbaijan from Hungary where he was serving a 30-year sentence.

The PACE resolution, based on a report by Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, European Democrat Group) and adopted by the Standing Committee, called the use of the treaty by Azerbaijan “a violation of the principles of good faith in international relations and of the rule of law.”

In April 2006, a Hungarian court had found Safarov guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison, with possibility of parole after 30 years. Safarov had confessed to hacking to death 26-year-old Armenian Lt. Gurgen Markaryan while the latter was asleep in his dormitory room. Safarov and the victim were in Hungary for a NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace English-language course in 2004. Safarov struck Markaryan 16 times with an axe, almost decapitating him. Following the murder he walked over to another Armenian officer’s room, hoping to commit a second murder, but found his door locked.

The resolution (Res. 2022) further stated that “The Assembly notes with concern that the convention was invoked in order to justify the immediate release, upon transfer to Azerbaijan, of Mr. Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani soldier convicted of murdering a fellow Armenian participant on a ‘Partnership for Peace’ training course in Hungary, sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Upon his arrival in Azerbaijan, he was welcomed as a national hero and granted an immediate pardon—long before the expiry of the minimum sentence set by the Hungarian court—a retroactive promotion as well as other rewards.”

Azerbaijan’s Justice Ministry had assured officials in Hungary that Safarov would continue to serve out his sentence in Azerbaijan. However, hours after his arrival on an Azerbaijani Airways special flight, Aliyev signed an order to pardon Safarov. The pardon became effective on the day of signing. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev promoted Safarov from the rank of lieutenant to major a day after the latter was extradited to Azerbaijan from Hungary.

The full text of the resolution is below:

Resolution 2022 (2014) Provisional version

Measures to prevent abusive use of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (ETS No. 112)

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly

Origin – Text adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 18 November 2014 (See Doc. 13540, report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr Christopher Chope). See also Recommendation 2057 (2014)

The Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (ETS No. 112) 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.
Since its entry into force in 1985, the convention has enabled, facilitated or accelerated the repatriation of hundreds of prisoners, and the Parliamentary Assembly considers it to be a valuable instrument for international co-operation in penal matters.
The Assembly notes with concern that the convention was invoked in order to justify the immediate release, upon transfer to Azerbaijan, of Mr Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani soldier convicted of murdering a fellow Armenian participant on a “Partnership for Peace” training course in Hungary, sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Upon his arrival in Azerbaijan, he was welcomed as a national hero and granted an immediate pardon – long before the expiry of the minimum sentence set by the Hungarian court –a retroactive promotion as well as other rewards.
While recognising that States Parties, by virtue of Article 12 of the convention, have a sovereign right to grant pardons and amnesties to persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the Assembly recalls that the principles of good faith in international relations, recognised, inter alia,by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and of the rule of law require that treaties be interpreted in line with their objects and purposes.
The Assembly therefore:
5.1. condemns the use of Article 12 of the convention by Azerbaijan in the case of Mr Safarov as a violation of the principles of good faith in international relations and of the rule of law;

5.2. confirms its position, expressed in Recommendation 1527 (2001), that the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons is not designed to be used for the immediate release of prisoners upon return to their home country;

5.3. 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 have political or diplomatic implications;

5.4. recommends to States Parties to the convention to conclude, where appropriate, ad hoc arrangements between a sentencing and an administering State in the form of an addendum to a transfer agreement under the convention, which would spell out mutual expectations and provide for adequate assurances by the administering State.

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