Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan simmered again this week as foreign ministries of the two countries exchanged remarks on a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upon the death of an Armenian intelligence serviceman in Azerbaijan in 2010.
The ECHR held in a Chamber judgment on January 30 that the authorities in Baku are responsible for the death of an Armenian intelligence serviceman in military police detention in Azerbaijan in 2010 as it is insisted in “Saribekyan and Balayan vs Azerbaijan” case launched by the parents of the deceased. Reactions from Baku and Yerevan to the court ruling were quite contradictory.
Armenia’s foreign ministry interpreted the court ruling as an evidence of the violation of human rights by Azerbaijan. The foreign ministry in Baku, however, said the decision of ECHR is not unanimous and final, and that it is looking into the right of appealing the document to the court’s Grand Chamber.
“Azerbaijan has the right to appeal this decision to the Grand Chamber of the Court within three months,’’ Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson, Leyla Abdullayeva said in a written statement issued on Tuesday.
‘‘We are currently conducting appropriate investigations in this regard. I would like to emphasize that the ECHR's decision was not unanimous.”
“The statement of the Armenian Foreign Ministry contradicts the idea of preparing the two countries for peace, which was accepted in joint statements personally by the foreign minister of this country and exposes the true intentions of the Armenian leadership.”
The “Saribekyan and Balayan vs Azerbaijan” case came up following the application of Mamikon Saribekyan and Siranush Balyan, parents of the Armenian intelligence serviceman Manvel Saribekyan, who was captured and died in Azerbaijan.
Saribekyan was detained by the Azerbaijani military during an operation against an Armenian sabotage group in the north-west of the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact on September 11, 2010. When captured, he carried several intelligence items with him. According to initial observations, he was part of a group that attempted to cross the line of contact and blow up a school in Azerbaijan.
While in detention at a military police station in Baku, Saribekyan committed suicide on October 5, 2010 and the Baku Military Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation, which revealed that he hanged himself in a cell where he was kept. Despite a forensic report that was made and issued under the surveillance of the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baku, the Prosecutor General in Armenia insisted that Saribekyan was killed. But, the final outcomes of the investigation in Azerbaijan proved in January 2011 that Saribekyan had committed suicide and had been held in proper conditions with no assault on him.
Leyla Abdullayeva said torture and killing are what Azerbaijani nationals suffered from the hands of the Armenian military since the very start of anti-Azerbaijan sentiments in Armenia in the late 1980s and after the occupation of Azerbaijani territories in the early 1990s.
“The policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis living in the territory of present-day Armenia was further aggravated in the late 1980s and forced expulsion reached its climax with the deportation of Azerbaijanis from the Gafan region in 1988-89,” she said.
“With the military occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions of Azerbaijan, Armenia carried out bloody ethnic cleansing against the local Azerbaijani population of the region, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis being displaced,” Abdullayeva said, adding 613 Azerbaijani civilians were massacred by Armenians in just one night in Khojaly on February 26, 1992.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan are currently under Armenia’s occupation as a result of the full-scale war in 1991-1994. The bloody war launched by Armenia following the collapse of the Soviet Union has also killed 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis and displaced one million.
Meanwhile, Abdullayeva recalled the ECHR decision on “Chiragov and others vs Armenia” case in 2015, saying Armenia's responsibility has been re-established in that ruling, and the existence of an illegal formation in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories through the military, political, financial and other support of Armenia is confirmed.
The “Chiragov and others vs Armenia” case was put forward by six Azerbaijani nationals from the occupied Lachin region of Azerbaijan in 2005. They insisted that they were forcibly displaced from their houses in Lachin after the region’s occupation in May 1992 and Armenia did not allow them to return back. ECHR justified their appeal in June 2015.