YEREVAN, Armenia, Jan 25 (IPS) – On July 29, 2023, Vagif Khachatryan, a 68-year-old Armenian retiree, awoke early in Nagorno Karabakh —a self-proclaimed republic within the Caucasus area—to journey to Armenia. He wanted to endure delicate coronary heart surgical procedure.
Regardless of the urgent medical emergency, it was not a simple determination. The one highway that linked Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia and the remainder of the world had been reduce off for seven months by the Azerbaijani military. Even when he was travelling in an Worldwide Committee of the Crimson Cross automotive, Khachatryan knew he may face bother.
He was arrested that day by the Azerbaijani border guard service. 4 months later, a navy courtroom in Baku handed him a 15-year sentence for crimes allegedly dedicated throughout a warfare fought greater than 30 years in the past.
Vagif Khachatryan is yet one more sufferer of a battle that has its roots within the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Armenians remained the bulk in Nagorno-Karabakh, however the enclave was formally on the territory of the new child Republic of Azerbaijan.
A warfare was already unravelling in Karabakh. The Armenian victory additionally led to the forcible displacement of a whole bunch of hundreds of Azerbaijanis. In September 2020, the latter launched an offensive by way of which they took over two-thirds of the territory below Armenian management.
However there have been nonetheless greater than 100,000 Armenians left.
In December 2022, Baku blocked the one highway connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the remainder of the world, depriving its inhabitants of essentially the most fundamental provides together with meals and medicines. It was that lack of medical help that pushed Vagif Khachatryan to his destiny seven months later.
With Khachatryan already in jail, the blockade on Nagorno Karabakh was lifted in September 2023 within the wake of a brand new Azeri assault. The highway was opened in order that the Armenians remaining within the enclave fled en masse to Armenia.
Senior worldwide our bodies just like the European Union Parliament accused Azerbaijan of finishing up “ethnic cleaning” in opposition to the Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh. Right now, Karabakhis are restarting from scratch in Armenia, the Khachatryans amongst these.
“The truth that my father has a coronary heart illness offers me hope that he won’t be tortured in Azerbaijani custody,” Vera Khachatryan instructed IPS by phone from Jermuk, 170 kilometres southeast of Yerevan.
Her father’s arrest, she stated, has additionally had an affect on her mom. “She suffers from new well being and psychological issues which solely add to these derived from compelled displacement,” defined the displaced girl.
On September 28, Karabaj authorities issued a decree dissolving the self-proclaimed Nagorno Karabakh Republic as of January 1, 2024.
On December 13, 2023, a prisoner alternate occurred: Azerbaijan launched 32 Armenian troopers in alternate for the final two Azerbaijani troopers below Armenian custody. Armenia’s assist for Azerbaijan to host the United Nations Local weather Summit in Baku was additionally a part of the deal.
Either side described it as “an indication of goodwill.”
“Azerbaijan makes use of the prisoners´ problem as a political device to place stress on Armenia or to acquire one thing in return,” Siranush Sahakyan, consultant of the Armenian prisoners’ pursuits on the European Courtroom of Human Rights instructed IPS by cellphone.
“No repatriation performed by Baku aside from the prisoner swap was held below an amnesty or another authorized process,” confused Sahakyan.
Armenia claims that greater than 100 prisoners of warfare and civilians stay in Azerbaijan, together with three former presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh, the speaker of parliament and members of the cupboard. Baku says the entire variety of Armenian prisoners in its custody is 23.
Aside from the contradicting figures, their state additionally poses a serious supply of concern. In a March 2021 report, Human Rights Watch denounced that the Armenian prisoners of warfare suffered abuse in Azerbaijani custody and referred to as on Baku to launch “all remaining prisoners of warfare and civilians.”
Confronted with Baku’s inaction, Yerevan appealed to the European Courtroom of Human Rights (ECHR).
“Azerbaijan is obliged to submit a report on arbitrarily detained senior officers to the ECHR earlier than the top of January 2024,” Hasmik Samvelyan, spokesperson for the Armenian Illustration for Worldwide Authorized Affairs, reminded IPS in a phone dialog.
In the meanwhile, the Worldwide Committee of the Crimson Cross is the one impartial physique that has entry to Armenian prisoners.
“Our representatives have visited all of the captives detained in Baku and checked the situations wherein they’re held,” Zara Amatuni, ICRC communications officer in Armenia, instructed IPS by phone.
A number of of the prisoners’ kinfolk confirmed to IPS that that they had the chance to talk with them. The ICRC mediates to facilitate communication by phone each 30 to 40 days. The organisation prevented giving extra particulars after interesting to the significance of confidentiality.
“We current our observations solely to the competent authorities,” the ICRC press officer confused to IPS.
Repatriated prisoners have additionally constantly refused to speak to journalists concerning the situations of their imprisonment, and that´s additionally the Armenian state´s coverage. Many see it as a solution to keep away from triggering a response from Azerbaijan that might worsen the imprisonment situations.
Ready for justice
Throughout a global discussion board on the way forward for Nagorno Karabakh held on December 6 in Baku, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev declared that the Armenian prisoners “are ready for Azerbaijani justice to rule.”
The latest wave of repression in opposition to the media and any voice crucial of the Authorities doesn’t invite hope. Final December, Amnesty Worldwidedenounced the arrests of at the least six impartial Azerbaijani journalists in only one month on “fabricated” expenses.
In its newest world freedom report, the Freedom Home claimed Azerbaijan is likely one of the 57 international locations categorised as “not free” out of the 159 studied. The Washington-based NGO denounced “quite a few arbitrary arrests and detentions”. It additionally described Azerbaijan’s judiciary as “corrupt and subordinate to the chief.”
One other of these ready for Azerbaijani justice to rule is Vicken Euljeckjian. This Lebanese who additionally has Armenian nationality was captured together with Maral Najarian —one other Lebanese Armenian— by Azerbaijani troopers whereas driving from Yerevan to Nagorno-Karabakh on November 10, 2020, a day after the Russian-brokered ceasefire was introduced.
4 months after their arrest, Beirut secured Najarian´s launch, however not Euljeckjian´s. The latter was sentenced to twenty years in jail in June 2021. His identify, nonetheless, appeared on the record of prisoners to be swapped on December 13, 2023, however a last-minute shock prevented it.
“After three years of separation, ache and despair, we have been very excited to listen to that he would lastly be launched. Immediately, his identify was changed with that of one other prisoner three hours earlier than the alternate,” Vicken´s spouse Linda Euljeckjian recalled to IPS by cellphone from Beirut.
Hoping to ease the method, Linda and her daughter travelled to Yerevan to satisfy with Armenian officers. However the latter may do little, so the household additionally approached senior Lebanese officers.
“After stress from the native media, the Lebanese authorities seems to be focused on discussing the problem of my husband’s repatriation with Azerbaijani officers,” stated Linda.
Whereas she waits for the discharge of her husband, the problem of Armenian prisoners of warfare and civilians in Azerbaijan stays amongst these to be settled in a battle inherited from the twentieth century.
© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service