An Axe to Grind: An Overview of Hungary's 'Axe Murder Case' and its Effects on the International Community

By Akos Erzse
Interstate - Journal of International Affairs
2015, Vol. 2014/2015 No. 1 | pg. 2/2 |

The Reasons Behind the Extradition

As mentioned previously, Hungary’s decision to finally extradite Safarov after years of the continuous lobbying on the part of Azerbaijan was a sudden move and the motives behind the transport of the prisoner remain nebulous. As we have seen before, both Hungary and Azerbaijan confirmed the legitimacy of the extradition, but they failed to provide reasons for it. It seems that the best response the media could get was nothing more than a “because we can” answer. The strengthening economic ties between Hungary and Azerbaijan previously alluded to the first choice when it came to trying to discern reasons behind the decision. However, as soon as these accusations emerged, they have been refuted by both sides. In its official statement, the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan denied any rumours regarding the purchase of Hungarian debt obligations and the investment of any other financial tools in Hungary.28 The mass media proposed another possible reason for the quick extradition, namely the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia.29 By drawing public attention to the case of the extradition, both candidates could earn a massive amount of support from the population and secure their position by placing the ‘axe murder’ at the heart of their campaign.

The Future

As we can see, despite the recent silence in the international media, the case of Ramil Safarov may remain significant as the ethnic tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia continues to exist. The EU-Armenia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee stated during its thirteenth meeting, that the lack of meaningful progress regarding the issues of Nagarno-Karabakh is troubling to say the least. The Committee expressed a desire for a more stable and peaceful resolution to this conflict which is clearly in the interest of the whole region.30 While the tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan is still significant, I believe it might be mitigated by new factors that had not been present during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The rise of international media over the last four decades offers an opportunity of familiarising ourselves with current issues in a matter of minutes. Despite the fact that the information we acquire is heavily processed and cannot be labeled as neutral, it undeniably shapes our opinions and our attitude towards certain issues.31 By influencing the opinion of the citizens, the media can have a significant impact on political decision making. Piers Robinson defines this phenomenon as the ‘CNN effect’. Robinson argues that due to the development of real-time communications technologies, the media is now capable of provoking major responses from domestic audiences on both global and national events.32 I believe that the attention of the media could have been a possible restricting force that contained the conflict, as many of the international observers had the chance to readjust their positions and react almost immediately after the events that transpired by asking the involved actors to practice restraint.

This attention was undoubtedly missing in the 1990s, when it would have been of utmost importance. People condemned and praised the actions of the past few months and decades based on different understandings of morality. Even though these moral views might differ from each other, the rise of international media and websites allow individuals to engage in discourse and encourage the citizens to share their opinion regarding conflicts like the ‘axe murder case’, which might help in containing such issues. However, we must not forget the importance of diplomacy and formal discourse of the governments. I believe that the process of the extradition could have been handled more smoothly if Azerbaijan and Hungary had approached the Armenian state first and discussed the issue in a more formal environment.

In conclusion, we can state that the extradition of Ramil Safarov caused a major diplomatic storm in Europe that attracted the attention of domestic and international actors as well. While the dispute posed a certain threat to the stability of the Caucasus region, fortunately it failed to ignite physical confrontation of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The international community of organisations and states succeeded in containing the conflict and prevented escalation. Following the extradition, the outrage and threat have seemingly decreased, but as the ‘axe murder’ case had shown, states must tread with caution in today’s “media covered” world. Media reaches far further in our world than it did two decades ago and its significance cannot be dismissed by governments.


References

Agayev, Z. ‘Socar to Ship Caspian Natural Gas to EU Using Own Pipelines’. Businessweek (online), 29 December 2011. Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-29/socar-to-ship-caspian-natural-gas-to-eu-using-own-pipelines.html.

A.L.B. ‘Hungary, Armenia and the axe-murderer-Blunder in Budapest’. The Economist (online), 4 September 2012. Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/09/hungary-armenia-and-axe-murderer.

Aliyev, M. ‘Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry: Safarov’s return not contrary to international law’. Trend (online), 1 September 2012. Available at: http://en.trend.az/news/politics/2060944.html.

Al Jazeera English. ‘A hero’s welcome for Azerbaijan axe murderer’. Al Jazeera English (online), 2 September 2012. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/europe/2012/09/201291215548920251.html

Artsakank. ‘Turkey-Azerbaijan military cooperation deepens to the tune of $200 million’. Artsakank (online), 13 May 2010. Available at: http://www.artsakank.com.cy/en/news/general/2010/turkey-azerbaijan-military-cooperation-deepens-tun.

Azeri Report. ‘Azerbaijani Parliament Ratifies Azeri-Turkish Defense Pact’. Azeri Report (online), 21 December 2010. Available at: http://azerireport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2540&Itemid=53

Barry, E. ‘A pardon Reignites Armenia-Azerbaijan Tensions’. The New York Times (online), 4 September 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/world/europe/pardon-reignites-azerbaijan-armenia-tensions.html?_r=0

Best, et al. International History Of The Twentieth Century And Beyond. (Oxon, Routledge,2008).

budapest.sumgait.info, Ramil Safarow’s first interrogation. Available from: http://budapest.sumgait.info/safarov-interrogation.htm

Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Hungary. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/hu.html

Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan, Statement by the spokespersons of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle on the release of Ramil Safarov. Available from: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/132251.pdf

Election Resources, Elections to the Hungarian National Assembly-Results Lookup. Available from: http://www.electionresources.org/hu/assembly.php?election=2010

Facebook, Hey Armenia, sorry about our Prime Minister. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/SorryArmenia

Facebook, Petíció Orbán Viktorhoz az azeri katona kiadatása kapcsán (csatlakozz). Available at: https://www.facebook.com/miniszterelnokurnak

Human Rights Watch, Playing the “Communal Card”: Communal Violence and Human Rights. Available from: http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/communal/

Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hungarian Diplomatic Note Sent to Armenia. Available from: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs/news/hungarian-diplomatic-note-sent-to-armenia

Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press release. Available from: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs/news/press-release

hvg.hu ‘Másfél éve dönthetett a kormány a baltás gyilkos kiadatásáról’. HVG (online), 8 October 2012. Available at http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121008_Masfel_eve_donthetett_a_kormany_a_baltas_

Külügyminisztérium, Közlemény Ramil Sahib Safarov Azerbajdzsán részére történt átadásáról. Available from: http://www.kormany.hu/hu/kozigazgatasi-es-igazsagugyi-miniszterium/hirek/kozlemeny-ramil-sahib-safarov-azerbajdzsan-reszere-tortent-atadasarol

Lisle, D. ‘How do we find out what’s going on in the world?’, in Global Politics, A New Introduction, edited by Jenny Adkins and Maja Zehfuss (New York, Routledge, 2009).

Mulholland, H. ‘Mitt Romney questions London's readiness for Olympic Games’. The Guardian (online), 26 July 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/26/mitt-romney-london-olympic-games

News AM. ‘Armenian MP’s speech causes Hungarian delegation to apologize - newspaper’. News AM (online), 30 October 2012. Available at: http://news.am/eng/news/126589.html

News AM. ‘EU stresses importance of Karabakh issue peaceful settlement and deplores lack of progress in negotiations’. News AM (online), 30 November 2012. Available at: http://news.am/eng/news/130578.html

News AM. ‘Group of Hungarian Intellectuals visits Gurgen Margaryan’s tomb’. News AM (online), 10 October 2012. Available at: http://news.am/eng/news/124327.html.

OSCE Minsk Group, Press release-OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Available from: http://www.osce.org/mg/93343.

Robinson, P. The CNN Effect: the myth of news, foreign policy, and intervention (New York, Routledge, 2002).

State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Official Statement of the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Available from: http://www.oilfund.az/en_US/news/786/100/Official-Statement-of-the-State-Oil-Fund-of-the-Republic-of-Azerbaijan.asp.

Sterling, J. ‘Axe murderer’s pardon stirs fears of war’. CNN (online), 6 September 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/05/world/asia/caucasus-ax-murderer-tension/index.html?iref=allsearch.

The Armenian Weekly. ‘ACTION ALERT: ANCA calls on Community to Protest Axe-Murderer Safarov’s Release’. The Armenian Weekly (online), 31 August 2012. Available at http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/08/31/action-alert-anca-calls-on-community-to-protest-axe-murderer-safarovs-release/.

U.S. Department of State, Pardon of Azerbaijani Soldier. Available from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/08/197250.htm.


Endnotes

  1. Mulholland, H. ‘Mitt Romney questions London's readiness for Olympic Games’. The Guardian (online), 26 July 2012. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/26/mitt-romney-london-olympic-games. (Accessed 15 March 2013).
  2. Best et al. International History Of The Twentieth Century And Beyond (Oxon, Routledge, 2008), p. 483.
  3. Human Rights Watch, Playing the “Communal Card”: Communal Violence and Human Rights. Available from: http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/communal/ (Accessed 18 March 2013).
  4. Al Jazeera English. ’A hero’s welcome for Azerbaijan axe murderer’. Al Jazeera English (online), 2 September 2012. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/europe/2012/09/201291215548920251.html (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  5. Election Resources, Elections to the Hungarian National Assembly-Results Lookup. Available from: http://www.electionresources.org/hu/assembly.php?election=2010 (Accessed 18 March 2013).
  6. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Hungary. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/hu.html (Accessed 16 March 2013).
  7. hvg.hu ‘Másfél éve dönthetett a kormány a baltás gyilkos kiadatásáról’. HVG (online), 8 October 2012. Available at: http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121008_Masfel_eve_donthetett_a_kormany_a_baltas_ (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  8. budapest.sumgait.info, Ramil Safarow’s first interrogation. Available from: http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121008_Masfel_eve_donthetett_a_kormany_a_baltas_ (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  9. Sterling, J. ‘Axe murderer’s pardon stirs fears of war’. CNN (online), 6 September 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/05/world/asia/caucasus-ax-murderer-tension/index.html?iref=allsearch (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  10. Al Jazeera English. ’A hero’s welcome for Azerbaijan axe murderer’. Al Jazeera English (online), 2 September 2012. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/europe/2012/09/201291215548920251.html (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  11. A.L.B. ‘Hungary, Armenia and the axe-murderer-Blunder in Budapest’. The Economist (online), 4 September 2012. Available at http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/09/hungary-armenia-and-axe-murderer (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  12. The Armenian Weekly. ‘ACTION ALERT: ANCA calls on Community to Protest Axe-Murderer Safarov’s Release’. The Armenian Weekly (online), 31 August 2012. Available at: http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/08/31/action-alert-anca-calls-on-community-to-protest-axe-murderer-safarovs-release/ (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  13. Facebook, Hey Armenia, sorry about our Prime Minister. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/SorryArmenia (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  14. Facebook, Petíció Orbán Viktorhoz az azeri katona kiadatása kapcsán (csatlakozz). Available at: https://www.facebook.com/miniszterelnokurnak (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  15. News.am. ‘Group of Hungarian Intellectuals visits Gurgen Margaryan’s tomb’. Armenian News (online), 10 October 2012. Available at: http://news.am/eng/news/124327.html (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  16. U.S. Department of State, Pardon of Azerbaijani Soldier. Available at: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/08/197250.htm (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  17. Külügyminisztérium, Közlemény Ramil Sahib Safarov Azerbajdzsán részére történt átadásáról. Available at: http://www.kormany.hu/hu/magyarorszag-jobban-teljesit/magyarorszag-jobban-teljesit#/hu/kozigazgatasi-es-igazsagugyi-miniszterium/hirek/kozlemeny-ramil-sahib-safarov-azerbajdzsan-reszere-tortent-atadasarol (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  18. Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press release. Available at: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs/news/press-release (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  19. News.am. ‘Armenian MP’s speech causes Hungarian delegation to apologize - newspaper’. Armenian News (online), 30 October 2012. Available at: http://news.am/eng/news/126589.html (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  20. Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hungarian Diplomatic Note Sent to Armenia. Available from: http://www.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs/news/hungarian-diplomatic-note-sent-to-armenia (Accessed 2 December 2012).
  21. Aliyev, M. ‘Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry: Safarov’s return not contrary to international law’. Trend (online), 1 September 2012. Available at: http://en.trend.az/news/politics/2060944.html (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  22. Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan, Statement by the spokespersons of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle on the release of Ramil Safarov. Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/132251.pdf (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  23. Agayev, Z. ‘Socar to Ship Caspian Natural Gas to EU Using Own Pipelines’. Businessweek (online), 29 December 2011. Available at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-29/socar-to-ship-caspian-natural-gas-to-eu-using-own-pipelines.html. (Accessed 14 March 13).
  24. Azerireport.com. ‘Azerbaijani Parliament Ratifies Azeri-Turkish Defense Pact’. Azeri Report (online), 21 December 2010. Available at: http://azerireport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2540&Itemid=53 (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  25. Artsakank. ‘Turkey-Azerbaijan military cooperation deepens to the tune of $200 million’. Artsakank (online), 13 May 2010. Available at: http://www.artsakank.com.cy/en/news/general/2010/turkey-azerbaijan-military-cooperation-deepens-tun. (Accessed 14 March 13).
  26. OSCE Minsk Group, Press release-OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Available at: http://www.osce.org/mg/93343 (Accessed 2 December 2012).
  27. Barry, E. ‘A pardon Reignites Armenia-Azerbaijan Tensions’. The New York Times (online), 4 September 2012. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/world/europe/pardon-reignites-azerbaijan-armenia-tensions.html?_r=0 (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  28. State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Official Statement of the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Available at: http://www.oilfund.az/en_US/news/786/100/Official-Statement-of-the-State-Oil-Fund-of-the-Republic-of-Azerbaijan.asp (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  29. Sterling, J. ‘Axe murderer’s pardon stirs fears of war’. CNN (online), 6 September 2012. Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/05/world/asia/caucasus-ax-murderer-tension/index.html?iref=allsearch (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  30. News.am. ‘EU stresses importance of Karabakh issue peaceful settlement and deplores lack of progress in negotiations’. Armenia News (online), 30 November 2012. Available at: http://news.am/eng/news/130578.html (Accessed 1 December 2012).
  31. Lisle, D. ‘How do we find out what’s going on in the world?’, in Global Politics, A New Introduction, edited by Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss (New York, Routledge, 2009), p. 148.
  32. Robinson, P. The CNN Effect: the myth of news, foreign policy, and intervention (New York, Routledge, 2002), p. 2.

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