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Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks expressed today his deep concerns about Azerbaijan's decision to pardon and honor Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer who in 2004 brutally murdered Armenian officer Gurgen Markaryan.
The Council of Europe's web-site quotes the Commissioner as saying: "Racist crimes must not go unpunished. Violent offences motivated by bias, such as racial or inter-ethnic hatred, are a particularly pernicious form of criminality. Apart from the destructive effects on the victims and those close to them, they can be devastating to whole communities and unravel the very fabric of society. States are under an obligation to apply strongly dissuasive sanctions against those who have perpetrated bias-motivated crimes."
Moreover, the Commissioner deplored the fact that the convicted murderer has been glorified and rewarded by Azerbaijan. "It is already highly regrettable if someone who commits a gruesome murder motivated by the victim's ethnicity or nationality is treated with a leniency not displayed towards others convicted of crimes. However, to glorify and reward such a person flies in the face of all accepted standards for human rights protection and rule of law. Such glorification of hate crimes can only send a message that others belonging to the same ethnic group as the victim, or indeed other members of vulnerable groups, are "fair game". This is an extremely dangerous message."