[The Armenian Weekly] WASHINGTON, DC — The Armenian Legal Center for Justice & Human Rights (ALC) in partnership with the International & Comparative Law Center (ICLaw) has announced the filing of new applications (cases) with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) alleging that Azerbaijan is responsible for the deaths of Armenian Prisoners of War (POWs) and civilians held in captivity. The applications present that 19 Armenian individuals, both civilians who remained in their native settlements and soldiers, were killed in 10 separate incidents while these individuals were held captive by Azerbaijani forces and/or in prison. These applications have been presented with irrefutable evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony, widespread video footage posted on the internet, forensic medical examinations and expert opinions. With insurmountable evidence, ICLaw, with the support of ALC, seeks to hold Azerbaijan accountable for failing to protect the lives of those in captivity under both the European Convention on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“By failing to protect the lives of those in captivity and by failing to investigate captives who are killed, Azerbaijan defiantly violates human rights law and fails to fulfill its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights,” stated ALC chairperson Kenneth Hachikian. “It is incumbent on the ECHR, and all affiliated European institutions, to unequivocally draw a red line and force Azerbaijan’s dictatorship to take responsibility.”
ALC is committed to pursuing justice for these 19 Armenian individuals and ensuring that all Armenian POWs are released and repatriated without harm. Based on this objective, ALC has partnered with ICLaw based in Yerevan, Armenia, to file cases and advocate before the ECHR on behalf of over 100 individual Armenian POWs. Thus this partnership serves to individually represent more than half of the Armenian POWs currently held in captivity by Azerbaijan. Recently, ICLaw, with the support of ALC, filed additional cases for interim measures and is working constantly to investigate and identify additional POWs held by Azerbaijan. As more information is obtained, ICLaw and ALC will continue to pursue both the freedom and the right to life of all Armenian POWs.
As the greater Armenian nation continues to pursue the release and repatriation of all Armenian POWs, ALC would like to share the names and backgrounds of the individuals on whose behalf ICLaw has filed right to life cases. Readers are advised that the following information may be graphic.
Vahram Lalayan was a 47-year-old civilian who lived in the village of Mets Tagher in the Hadrut region of Artsakh. When the war started, he refused to flee and remained in his home. The corpse of Vahram Lalayan was later found during search operations. The photos of the body and the autopsy protocol indicate that Vahram’s body was not found in its integrity, rather his head was separated from the body, and the wrists were cut.
Volodya Aghabekyan was an 83-year-old civilian who lived in the village of Sghnakh in the Askeran region of Artsakh. He chose to remain in his home during the war. On December 17, 2020, his corpse was discovered near his house in the course of search operations. According to the forensic investigations, his death occurred as a result of a gunshot wound in the head, damaging the brain matter. Volodya Aghabekyan was willfully killed by the Azerbaijani soldiers despite his age and being under the full protection of the provisions of international humanitarian law provided to civilians.
Arsen Gharakhanyan was a 45-year-old civilian who lived in the region of Hadrut with his family. Arsen and his father Sasha were captured together on the same day. Sasha was repatriated on December 14, 2020, whereas Arsen was held in captivity for a prolonged period and later executed by his captors. Before killing him, Azeris filmed two videos of Arsen and published them online. His dead body was handed over to the Armenian side and presented as a victim of the war. The photos of the corpse, as well as the results of the post-mortem examination, indicate that he was subjected to torture and inhuman treatment while in captivity.
Yuri Adamyan and Benik Hakobyan were both captured by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces and killed in the town center of Hadrut. On October 15, 2020, two video recordings were published on the internet showing how Yuri and Benik were captured (first video) and later, how they were killed by gunshots, wrapped in the flags of Armenia and Artsakh (second video). As of this date, their bodies have not been handed over to the Armenian side. Their families are thus prevented from the possibility of a proper burial.
Mushegh Melkumyan was an 83-year-old civilian who lived in Hadrut since the 1950s. He was taken captive at the beginning of October 2020. He was kept incommunicado for almost 20 days with no opportunity to communicate by any independent mechanisms. Mushegh was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. He died in captivity on October 29, 2020. His body was handed over to the Armenian side two days later. His captivity was not duly acknowledged for a long time, as the ICRC gained access to visit Mushegh only on October 26, 2020, three days before his death.
Narek Babayan was involved in the defense of Artsakh during the 2020 war. He was captured by Azeri armed forces, who beheaded him. His captors called Narek’s family members and informed them that Narek was in their hands, and that they had cut his throat. A couple of hours later, a photo of a dead and mutilated Narek appeared on his personal Instagram page.
Gennadi Petrosyan was a 69-year-old civilian who lived in the region of Askeran of Artsakh and refused to leave his house during the war. He was captured by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces after they entered the village of Madatashen of Askeran. In November 2020, a video circulated in Azerbaijani media of an Azerbaijani soldier cutting Gennadi Petrosyan’s neck, while two other soldiers are holding him by the arms. Then, another video appeared in the media portraying Gennadi’s corpse. Azerbaijani soldiers disgraced the corpse by putting Gennadi’s head on a pig and saying out loud: “a pig looks like a pig.” The dead body of Gennadi Petrosyan has not been returned as of this date.
Yurik Asriyan was an 80-year-old civilian who lived in the region of Hadrut and refused to leave his home during the war. He was captured by Azerbaijani armed forces after they entered the village of Azokh of Hadrut. A video was circulated in the Azerbaijani media, portraying how an Azeri soldier is cutting Yuri’s neck. On January 21, 2021, his corpse was handed to the Armenian side from the territory of Azokh. The head of Yuri Asriyan is still missing.
Sargis Manukyan, Lyudvig Avdalyan, Senik Khurshudyan and Husik Hovakimyan all participated in the defense of Artsakh during the 2020 war. On October 23, 2020, a video appeared on the Telegram mobile application, showing a damaged medical transportation vehicle and the dead bodies of Sargis, Lyudvig, Senik and Husik being dragged out of the vehicle and thrown to the ground. The video also showed Azeri soldiers standing next to the fallen soldiers and making derogatory statements about them. A few days later, another video appeared on Telegram, showing how the half-naked bodies of the four servicemen are dragged out of a “Kamaz” truck with the use of a shovel. The bodies are thrown on the ground, slammed with the shovel and stomped on the face, while the Azeri servicemen laugh and make derogatory statements. The bodies bear signs of medical treatment, making it more than obvious that the killed individuals were not active soldiers taking direct part in hostilities, but “hors de combat.”
Karen Nersisyan, Hayk Harutyunyan, Albert Stepanyan, Grisha Grigoryan, Sasun Petrosyan and Samvel Smbatov all participated in the defense of Artsakh during the 2020 war. After the signing of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, a six-member group of Armenian servicemen hiding in the forests of Hadrut were found by Russian peacekeeping forces and safely transferred to Armenia. Following that case, realizing that more Armenian servicemen could be hiding in other parts of the forests of Hadrut, the Azerbaijani side conducted search operations without the participation of Russian peacekeeping forces. That is when the Azeris found Karen, Hayk, Albert, Grisha, Sasun and Samvel hiding in the forests and shot them dead.