Case Note on Makuchyan and Minasyan v. Azerbaijan and Hungary
American Journal of International Law, forthcoming
9 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 15, 2021
The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Makuchyan and Minasyan v. Azerbaijan and Hungary is remarkable both on account of its facts and the peculiar legal issues it raised. In 2004, an axe-wielding Azerbaijani army officer (R.S) beheaded one Armenian officer, and attempted to kill another, while attending a NATO-organized English language course in Budapest, Hungary. R.S. was prosecuted in Hungary and given a life sentence. Eight years later, R.S. was transferred to Azerbaijan to serve the remainder of his sentence. However, upon his arrival, R.S. received a hero’s welcome. He was released, pardoned, promoted, and awarded salary arrears for the period spent in prison, as well as the use of a state apartment in the capital.
A Chamber of the European Court unanimously decided that Azerbaijan violated Article 2 ECHR by releasing R.S., and, by six votes to one, that this also violated Article 14 ECHR. On the other hand, by six votes to one, the Chamber found that Azerbaijan bore no responsibility for the killing itself, and that Hungary bore no responsibility for transferring R.S. to Azerbaijan.
Apart from the various state obligations under the right to life with regard to R.S.'s release and pardon by Azerbaijan and his transfer by Hungary, the case raised numerous other questions: the Convention’s extraterritorial application; attribution of conduct under Article 11 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility; and the burden of proving discriminatory intent. This case note examines the Court's judgment and explores these issues in some detail.
Keywords: European Convention on Human Rights. right to life, extraterritorial assassinations, prohibition of discrimination, hate crimes, pardons and impunity, attribution of conduct
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