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The Governments of Azerbaijan and Hungary have been asked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to respond formally to a case brought by the relatives of Armenian army officer Gurgen Margaryan, who was murdered by Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov in Budapest in 2004.

The European Human Rights Advocacy Centre website has informed the aforementioned.

Margaryan’s relatives are represented by the Centre (based in Middlesex University), Legal Guide (Armenian NGO), and Nazeli Vardanyan.

Both men were attending a NATO-sponsored English-language course in Budapest. On 19 February 2004, Safarov murdered Margaryan by decapitating him with an axe. In April 2006, Safarov was found guilty of murder by the Budapest City Court, and was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the possibility of conditional release after 30 years. The court found that Safarov had intended to kill two Armenian participants at the course on the anniversary of the beginning of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. After the Court of Appeal upheld this judgment in February 2007, Safarov began serving his sentence in a Hungarian prison.

In August 2012, the Hungarian Minister of Justice approved Safarov’s transfer to Azerbaijan with a view to his serving his sentence there. However, a few hours after Safarov was transferred on 31 August 2012, he was granted a pardon by the Azerbaijani President and set free. He was also promoted to major, awarded eight years’ salary arrears, and offered a flat.

In response to this development, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced on August 31, 2012 that Armenia is suspending its diplomatic ties with Hungary. Also, Sargsyan instructed the Ministry of Justice to take all measures to petition to the international judicial tribunals, and with respect to the Safarov case.   

Ramil Safarov’s pardoning was condemned by virtually all international organizations.   

In February 2013, the Armenian party petitioned to the European Court of Human Rights, in connection with the Ramil Safarov case. The complaint was with respect to Articles 2 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The victim’s family argue that Gurgen Margaryan’s right to life has been violated by Azerbaijan – both because of his murder, and also because Ramil Safarov’s pardon has prevented the full enforcement of his sentence. They also argue that Margaryan was the victim of an ethnically-motivated hate crime, which was later endorsed by Safarov’s pardon and release. In addition, they argue that Hungary has breached Article 2 of the Convention because it allowed Safarov to be transferred to Azerbaijan, without having obtained assurances that he would be required to complete his prison sentence in Azerbaijan.

The case is also brought by Hayk Makuchyan, an Armenian military officer whom Ramil Safarov was convicted of intending to murder during the same incident in Budapest.

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