Karabakh Conflict Plays Out At European Court

The ECHR building in Strassbourg

STRASBOURG—One day after finding Turkey guilty of not protecting the life and freedoms of Hrant Dink, the European Court of Human Rights began hearings on two separate cases Wednesday centering on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

One of the cases, “Chigarov et al vs. Armenia,” is a complaint filed by an Azeri who claims he cannot return to his home in Kashatagh (Lachin) saying he was forced to leave during the height of the Karabakh war. The second case, “Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan” asserts that Azeris forcibly removed him and others from village of Gulistan in the Shahumian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is occupied by Azerbaijan and was the site of violent pogroms by the Azeri Army in 1992.

In his complaint, Sargsyan also cites the ensuing destruction by the Azeri Army of the Armenian cemetery in Djulfa as a cause for seeking damages, since his relatives were buried at the cemetery.

The attorney representing Armenia in the hearings, Gevork Kostanyan, said that the Azeri case did not belong in the ECHR, noting that the plaintiff was absent from the hearings.

In presenting the case on behalf of the government of Armenia, which included the position of the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, Kostanyan reminded the court that the current peace negotiations were being mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group and warned that interference of other parties could severely hinder the peace process.

“Interference of any other organizations, institutions and bodies, including the interested ones, will impede the negotiation process, held within the OSCE Minsk Group format. Both the Armenian government and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, dealing with the issue since 1992, have many times reiterated this,” he highlighted.

The essence of international agreements surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan’s responsibilities in pursuing them came to light when one of the presiding justices, Luis Lopez of Spain asked attorney representing Azerbaijan, whether the plaintiffs had requested permission to return to their home from the “authorities of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”

The Azeri lawyers argued that the area in questions was occupied by Armenia, to which Lopez responded by citing the tri-lateral cease fire agreement that was signed between Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

“If, as Azerbaijan asserts, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and adjacent territories are controlled by Armenia, why was a trilateral agreement on ceasefire signed?” asked Lopez in response to the plaintiff’s assertions.

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