PACE condemns Azerbaijan’s use of prisoner transfer treaty in ‘Safarov case’

The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has condemned the use by Azerbaijan of a Council of Europe prisoner transfer treaty to justify the immediate release of an Azerbaijani soldier, convicted of murdering an Armenian soldier in Hungary in 2004, once he had returned to his home country.

In a resolution adopted during its meeting in Brussels, based on a report by Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EC), the Standing Committee – which brings together around 60 leading members of PACE and acts in its name – said the use of Article 12 of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons in the case of Ramil Safarov was “a violation of the principles of good faith in international relations and of the rule of law”.

Mr Safarov was convicted in 2007 of murdering an Armenian fellow participant on a NATO training course in Hungary and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release for 30 years. After serving eight years of his sentence in Hungary, he was transferred to Azerbaijan under the Convention, which allows the transfer of foreign prisoners to their home countries for primarily humanitarian reasons.

Upon his arrival Mr Safarov was welcomed as a national hero and granted an immediate pardon – long before the expiry of the minimum sentence set by the Hungarian court – and a retroactive promotion as well as other rewards, according to the resolution.

The Convention is “not designed to be used for the immediate release of prisoners upon return to their home country”, the parliamentarians pointed out.

“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.”