UN concerned over case of Azerbaijani military officer
The United Nations human rights office is "seriously concerned" about the case of an Azerbaijani military officer who was sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for the brutal 2004 murder of an Armenian officer, according to a UN spokesperson.
The Azerbaijani officer, Ramil Safarov, had been taking part in the same North Atlantic Treaty Organization training programme in Hungary as his Armenian counterpart, Gurgen Markaryan, at the time of the crime.
"The concerns relate to the fact that, around a week ago, Safarov was extradited from Hungary to Azerbaijan, where instead of serving out the rest of his sentence, he was pardoned by the President, publicly praised, and promoted by the Defence Ministry," a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told a news briefing in Geneva. "This has resulted in an international furore."
The murder had been "clearly ethnically motivated," Colville also noted.
OHCHR's concerns echo that of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In response to a media question on the issue on Thursday, Ban's spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said that the UN chief is concerned about the developments surrounding the case of Safarov.
"The United Nations underscores the responsibility of Member States to adhere to international standards and principles of rule of law in criminal cases in order to ensure accountability and fight impunity," Nesirky said.
Addressing the news briefing in Geneva today, Colville said that international standards regarding accountability for serious crimes should be upheld. "Ethnically motivated hate crimes of this gravity should be deplored and properly punished - not publicly glorified by leaders and politicians," he stated.
In their comments, both Colville and Nesirky made reference to a statement earlier this week from the Co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group, in which they expressed concern over "the damage the pardon and any attempts to glorify the crime have done to the [Nagorno-Karabakh] peace process and trust between the two sides."
"As highlighted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Co-Chairs in their recent statement, we hope that this issue will not damage the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and trust between the sides," Nesirky said. "There is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."
Co-chaired by France, Russia and the United State, the OSCE's Minsk Group spearheads that organization's efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, involving Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The two countries have been in a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is part of Azerbaijan's territory but is occupied by Armenian forces.