EU lawmakers condemn Azerbaijan in Safarov Affair

The European Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution condemning Azerbaijan for pardoning and glorifying Ramil Safarov, an Azeri army officer who hacked to death an Armenian colleague while a NATO-sponsored language course in Hungary in 2004.

The legislative body of the European Union “deplored” the decision by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to pardon Safarov, a confessed murderer serving a life prison sentence in Budapest, upon his extradition from Hungary, saying that it regards that decision as “a gesture which could contribute to further escalation of the tensions between two countries, and which is exacerbating feelings of injustice and deepening the divide between those countries.”

The EU lawmakers who passed the resolution by a vote of 58 to 13, with five abstentions, said they were further concerned that “this act is jeopardising all peaceful reconciliation processes within the societies concerned and may undermine the possible future development of peaceful people-to-people contact in the region.”

The EP considers that, “while the presidential pardon granted to Mr Safarov complies with the letter of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, it runs contrary to the spirit of that international agreement.” It also considers the presidential pardon to Safarov as “a violation of the diplomatic assurances given to the Hungarian authorities in Azerbaijan’s request for transfer on the basis of the Convention.”

The European parliamentarians also refer to “the hero’s welcome” accorded to Safarov in Azerbaijan and the decision to promote him to the rank of major and pay him eight years’ back salary upon his arrival, voicing concerns about the example that it sets for future generations.

It adds that “the frustration in Azerbaijan and Armenia over the lack of any substantial progress as regards the peace process in Nagorno-Karabakh does not justify either acts of revenge or futile provocations that add further tension to an already tense and fragile situation.”

The European Parliament further called on the EU to play a “stronger role” in the Karabakh peace process by supporting confidence-building measures between the conflicting parties.