Baku Threatens to Expel them from ‘Azerbaijan’
Azerbaijani guards stationed at the illegal checkpoint on the Lachin Corridor on Monday abducted three young Artsakh residents who were en-route to Armenia and were being escorted by Russian peacekeeping forces.
Armenia’s foreign ministry on Monday said Alen Sargsyan, Vahe Hovsepian and Levon Grigoryan were traveling to Armenia to continue their studies, adding that their transport “was previously agreed upon and was being carried out with Russian peacekeeping escort.”
Azerbaijani media reported that the three Artsakh residents were “arrested” and claimed that they have been on a wanted list by Azerbaijani authorities since 2021.
Azerbaijani press reported that the three were soccer players of the Martuni Avo Club and have been wanted for allegedly “dishonoring the Azerbaijan flag.”
Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s office said that the three students have been remanded and will serve 10 days in prison, after which “they will be expelled from Azerbaijan.”
The three men were among 170 others who were being transported by Russian peacekeepers from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia on August 28, explained Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan, adding that Azerbaijani border guards used force on one of the three students, Alen Sargsyan.
He also recounted how five students were taken into an interrogation room where they were questioned by Azerbaijanis about the purpose of their visit to to Armenia, they interests and their involvement in sports.
Soon after, two others, Vahe Hovsepyan and Levon Grigoryan, did not cross the illegal checkpoint with the Russian peacekeepers.
“On numerous occasions we have stressed that the illegal checkpoint located near the Hakari bridge poses a direct and irrefutable threat to the physical existence and protection of the fundamental rights of the civilian population of Artsakh,” Stepanyan said in a statement.
The recent abductions, he said, “proves that the so-called checkpoint has turned into a means for Azerbaijanis to arbitrarily kidnap and deprive civilians of their freedom with 120,000 people being kept under the blockade, deprived of humanitarian access and the possibility of protection of their basic human rights,” added Stepanyan.
“The international legal and political guarantees from both the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Russian peacekeepers effectively are insufficient to protect the rights of the population of Artsakh, including the right to free and safe movement,” explained Stepanyan.
He demanded that these entities take all possible steps to ensure the safety of free movement of the population of Artsakh and the immediate return of the abducted persons.
“Otherwise, without such guarantees, the transportation of civilians should be stopped,” emphasized Stepanyan.
“Azerbaijan continues its genocidal policy against the people of Artsakh, once again violating the norms of international humanitarian law,” the Artsakh InfoCenter said in a statement.
This is the second such incident where an Artsakh resident has been abducted by Azerbaijani guards while being escorted by an internationally mandated group. On July 29, 68-year-old Vagif Khachatryan, who was being transported to Armenia to receive emergency treatment for a heart condition, was abducted and later arrested while under the care of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Armenia’s foreign ministry said that Monday’s, coupled with the earlier incident involving Khachatryan, “constitutes a gross violation of the November 9, 2020 trilateral statement, the binding decisions of the UN International Court of Justice and is an explicit disregard for the unequivocal and targeted calls by the international community, including the members of the UN Security Council.”
“These incidents, which are taking place under certain fake pretexts, amplify substantiated fears that Azerbaijan is overtly planning to subject the entire people of Nagorno-Karabakh to collective punishment. [The Artsakh residents] in the 1990s and in 2020 were forced to withstand large-scale aggressions unleashed by Azerbaijan and defend their right to live peacefully in their own homeland,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said.
“This policy of mass deprivation of all fundamental rights of the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh regardless of age, gender or health condition, subjecting them to starvation, blocking supplies of medications, essential products, gas and electricity, terrorizing the entire people through targeting civilians with snipers and kidnappings and blocking the Lachin Corridor demonstrates the Azerbaijani leadership’s true intentions: to avoid dialogue with Nagorno-Karabakh at all cost and instead continue its policy of ethnic cleansing,” added the foreign ministry.
“Instead of supporting the steps aimed at establishing peace and stability in the region the Azerbaijani side is explicitly investing its entire efforts in the direction of derailing them,” Yerevan said in its statement.
“Preventing the ongoing crimes, with the use of every available tool is the direct obligation of all parties having influence on the situation and the civilized world in general,” the foreign ministry said.