Last month, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its decision on a right to life case brought against Azerbaijan and Hungary.
An Azerbaijani military officer who killed one Armenian citizen and attempted to murder another, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary (where the crimes were committed). During the criminal proceedings, the defendant admitted that the main motive behind the crimes was the Armenian ethnic origin of the victims. However, when a few years later the convicted criminal was transferred to Azerbaijan in order to serve the rest of his sentence there, he was pardoned by the president immediately on arrival in the country. He was also promoted, offered an apartment and awarded eight years’ salary arrears.
The ECtHR found that Azerbaijan procedurally violated Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (right to life), as the authorities of the country effectively impeded the full enforcement of the sentence for two crimes against life and health.
However, the ECtHR decided there had been no substantive violation of the same article, as the criminal acted individually and did not represent the Azeri Government, even though he had served as a military officer at the time. This conclusion was however contested in the dissenting opinion of one of the judges and has already been criticised in the media and by the official representatives of the state of Armenia.
Azerbaijan was also found to have violated Article 14 of the Convention (prohibition of discrimination) because it had been proven that the violent attack amounted to an ethnically motivated hate crime and the Azeri Government had later endorsed this act – by treating the criminal “as an innocent or wrongfully convicted person” who was “bestowed with benefits”.
The applicants also claimed that Hungary should also be liable, as it executed the request for the criminal’s transfer without obtaining the necessary assurances that his prison sentence would be duly completed in Azerbaijan. However, the Court found there were no violations by Hungary, as this state had performed all the obligations imposed by the Transfer Convention.
The Head of the Press Service Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan has commented on the decision, noting “Armenia’s intention to use the European Court as a tool in the smear campaign against Azerbaijan and its attempts to politicize this institution”.
The decision once again shows that a state cannot escape responsibility for arbitrary actions – even if they are duly authorised under its own criminal procedure rules.
Gherson has extensive experience in assisting clients from various jurisdictions on their human right matters. If you would like to discuss any alleged human rights violations, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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Paralegal in our Complex Case team