36. Unprecedented International Legal Mistake from an EU Member State: Hungary Delivered the Axe Murderer to Azerbaijan : c’est plus qu’un crime, c’est une faute
September 2, 2012
“Try not to become a man of success but a man of value.” ~Albert Einstein
In February 2004, Mr. Ramil SAFAROV SAHIB, an Azeri soldier cruelly and treacherously murdered the 26 years old Armenian Gurgen MARKARIAN (in fact: decapitated with an axe in his sleep) in Hungary when both participated in an English course at the Zrínyi Miklós National Defence University in the framework of a NATO partnership program. Due to the location of the murder, the legal proceedings had been taken in Hungary and SAFAROV was sentenced to lifelong prison in February 2007 in Budapest. Before the final decision, SAFAROV had been elected for “the man of the year” in Azerbaijan.
(Ramil Safarov in 2006 on his trial in Budapest © source of the photo mno.hu)
What is Hungary’s role in the Armenian-Azeri conflict?
In the recent days, Hungary surprisingly delivered the lifelong prison sentenced axe murderer – who is considered as a national hero in his home country – to Azerbaijan following a long negotiation process between Hungarian and Azeri officials (in the end at the highest possible level). The deliverance was legally based on the European Convention of the European Council on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons after receiving “appropriate guarantees” that Azerbaijan will follow the execution of the definitve judgment. Not surprisingly, after the deliverance of Mr. SAFAROV, the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev immediately pardoned to him and set him free.
What is the relevance of that decision?
Mr. SAFAROV comes from the disputed Nagorno-Karabak region which belongs to Azerbaijan according to the international law. Nevertheless, after the end of the bloody Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, Armenia control 91% of the region. And now, following Hungary’s decision, Armenian soldiers fired to Azeri-ones on the Azeri-Armenian border, and in addition to that, the Obama administration expressed its worries concerning the situation and expects further justification from Hungary. Armenian civil population ripped off and burned the Hungarian flag in the Armenian capital city, Yerevan and Armenia officially cut diplomatic ties with Hungary.
My personal role in that story
It isn’t a secret that between 2004-2007, I served the Hungarian Judicial system as a clerk of the Court of Appeal of Budapest (Fővárosi ítélőtábla) and I was present on 22 February 2007 when our 2.Bf Criminal Council sentenced Mr. SAFAROV at last resort to lifelong imprisonment in Budapest. I mentioned this fact in my earlier blog entry, as well. Thus, I have a personal responsibility to present my legal interpretation and deliver my professional opinion on the desirable steps forward.
Did Hungary act fully in line with the international law?
Definitely not. But may I immediately add thereto: Hungary didn’t violate the international law, either. In fact, the European Convention of the European Council on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons regulates the deliverance of sentenced persons outside of their home countries and Hungary formally followed the rules (at least the letters) of the Convention. But doing so, he violated the spirit of the convention: such a deliverance of a sentenced person can take place ONLY IF the other party give APPROPRIATE GUARANTEES that the judgment will be executed under the same conditions. And it had to be obvious for everyone, that the words of a Minister of Justice cannot be considered as an appropriate guarantee in that case since SAFAROV, the axe murderer is considered as a national hero in Azerbaijan. And even not lawyers could have been aware of the existence of a potential Presidential Pardon.
There is another legal example: A Serbian murderer Magda Marinko has been sentenced for lifelong prison for several assassinations in Hungary. However, he cannot be delivered to Serbia since there is still death penalty in Serbia and Serbia couldn’t give enough Ggarantee that it wouldn’t execute the murderer if Hungary delivered him. At least so far.
Shall somebody bear political responsibility for that case?
In order to save the country’s remained reputation: yes. Pourque l’honneur du pays soit sauvé : oui. Comme Monsieur Fouché a exprimé sincérement son avis même pour Napolèon : c’est plus qu’un crime, c’est une faute. Évidémment, la conséquence politique est le résultat d’une faute politique. Néanmoins, à mon avis, dans cette situation particulière, c’est la la faute morale qui est plus grave et qui compte.
Is the EU concnerned ?
Obviously. We cannot leave without comment that the country acting such a controversial manner is a respected member of the European Union. This time, the EU won’t launch additional infringement procedures since it hasn’t the competence of doing so. But the political and diplomatic consequences will badly affect even the EU’s reputation in that conflict – thanks to Hungary.
Conclusion: What is the next step?
The situation is grave enough but there is never too late to do the right thing. As regards my role – since I took part in the Criminal process: I can raise my legal voice in this public Blog and I will consequently represent my clear legal conviction. And I am not afraid to give my advice, as I always do. The Hungarian government laid down that the Hungarian foreign policy will be based on values not on interests. Hungary has 13 officially recognized minorities Armenian is one of them. Armenian population contributed to Hungary’s history: in the 1848 revolution, Armenian generals sacrificed themselves for the Hungarian freedom. And now, since Hungary didn’t apply very basic judicial and diplomatic rules in an appropriate manner and created international conflicts the final magnitude cannot be seen of, the political responsibility of the concerned ministers can really be brought into questions.
And the key of the situation is in the hands of the concerned ministers.
According to the latest news, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán admitted in a closed party meeting that he had ordered Ramil Safarov to be transferred back to Azerbaijan despite the fact that he was aware that Safarov would be released sooner or later.
If that was the case, I would slightly modify my conlusion. I maintain that for such a decision both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have to bear political responsiblity (even if they had to obey the PM since due to their signature/agreement they took the political responsibility upon themselves) but the Hungarian Prime Minister shall also take this responsibility accordingly. As I quoted above, the transfer was more than a simple legal case: it was a political mistake. Mutatis mutandis: C’est plus qu’un crime, c’est une faute.
I remain at your disposal.
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