YEREVAN — In an interview with Aravot daily Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian speaks about the European Court rulings on Chiragov vs. Armenia and Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan cases and referred to their possible impact on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Question: Mr. Minister, the first question has somewhat general nature. What is the opinion of the Republic of Armenia on the European Court of Human Rights?
Answer: Armenia highly values the role of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the effective protection of the human rights of the 800 million people of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. Armenia has always supported the processes and reforms aimed at strengthening the effectiveness and full implementation of the activities of the ECHR.
Question: Ever since the publication of the Chiragov case by the ECHR, Azerbaijan tries to manipulate it, to interpret it in its own arbitrary version, in particular claiming that the Court blamed Armenia for the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories. Is that the case?
Answer: As for the interpretations of Azerbaijan as if the ECHR judgment on the Chiragov vs. Armenia case allegedly refers to the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, it should be stressed that the Judgment of the Court does not contain any such assertion.
Furthermore, in the 168th paragraph of the case the Court reiterated its principled position that this Judgment applies only to the protection of the rights pertaining to the European Convention on Human Rights, and nothing more. As it is mentioned in the case the Judgment refers to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights on the protection of property, respect for private and family life and effective remedy.
Question: In your comment just after the Judgment was issued you said that the issues related to the right of the refugees and displaced persons to return are integral part of the negotiation process, they can be settled as a result of the comprehensive resolution of the issue. Can the ECHR’s Judgment have an impact on the negotiation process?
Answer: The decision of the Grand Chamber of the ECHR on the admissibility of the case notes that it may be reasonable for applicants to wait for the outcome of political processes such as peace talks and negotiations which, in these circumstances, may offer the only realistic hope of obtaining a solution. At the same time the decision finds that irrespective of the ongoing negotiation process the individuals have the right to pursue the protection of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Azerbaijan notorious of its violations of the human rights does not shay away to exploit for its political calculations the Judgment of one of the most prominent institutions on the human rights protection. Once again Baku tries to present the issues related to the protection of human rights, including the rights of refugees, in its own arbitrary interpretative manner, thus falsifying the whole essence of the Case. The Judgment of the ECHR on the Chiragov case pertains to an individual court case, to the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and cannot have any impact on the negotiation process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution.
Question: Does the Judgment anyhow touch the circumstances that made the applicants leave their homes?
Answer: To the observation of the Armenian side that Nagorno-Karabakh has exercised its right to self-defense, in the paragraph 197 of the Judgment the Court takes note of the claims that the district of Lachin was of military strategic importance and that there was a need to deliver food, medicine and other supplies into Nagorno-Karabakh. In fact the Court takes note that under the conditions of the Azerbaijani aggression the liberation of Lachin had a vital importance for the survival of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh ensuring the access of its population to the essential supplies.
Question: What was the reaction from Baku on the Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan case?
Answer: You are right, on the same day of the Chiragov’s case Judgment, the Court adopted another Judgment protecting the rights of Mr.Sargsyan who was forcefully displaced by Azerbaijan from the Gulistan village of the Shahumyan region. In both cases the Judgments of the Court are almost symmetrical. In both Cases the Court has registered the violation of the same rights of the Convention. It is noteworthy that Baku tries to circumvent any mentioning of the Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan case.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Court makes Judgments on the protection of the rights of the displaced persons. As it is mentioned in the 129th paragraph, the Court examined for the first time the rights of displaced persons in 1996 and later on has had a number of similar cases where it in accordance to the European Convention protected the rights of displaced persons.
Question: Are there any formulations in the Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan case which, as you mentioned, make Azerbaijan to refrain from mentioning about this Judgment of the Court?
Answer: The 32nd paragraph of the Sargsyan vs. Azerbaijan case notes that in April-May 1991 the USSR Internal Forces and the special-purpose militia units (the OMON) of the Azerbaijan SSR launched a military operation with the stated purpose of so called passport checking. However, that was only the pretext to expel the Armenian population of a number of villages in the Shahumyan region, forcing them to leave their homes and flee to Nagorno-Karabakh or Armenia. The expulsions were accompanied by arrests and violence towards the civilian population. In 1992, when the conflict escalated into a full-scale war, Shahumyan region came under attack by Azerbaijani forces. The Armenians in other regions faced the same fate. The ECHR confirms that Azerbaijan exercised violence and expelled the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the 216th paragraph of the Case the Court observes again that the applicant is one of the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who fled during the conflict leaving property and home behind. Getting familiar with the materials of the Case it becomes clear why Azerbaijan stays silent about this Judgment.
Question: Is it possible to consider the Judgments of the ECHR as interference in the conflict resolution?
Answer: While examining the issues within the Court’s jurisdiction the Court notes in the 216th paragraph of the Sargsyan case that it is the responsibility of the parties to find a political settlement to the conflict. In other words the Court itself underscores that its Judgment is not related either to the settlement of the conflict or to any of its elements and hence once again refutes Azerbaijani falsifications. The Court goes on to state that the comprehensive solutions to such questions as the return of refugees to their former places of residence, or payment of compensation can only be achieved through a peace agreement.
In the paragraph 236 of the Case the Court underlines the importance of the peace process in the framework of the Minsk Group Co-chairs and observes that the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence is one of the elements contained in the Madrid Basic Principles which have been elaborated in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and form the basis of the peace negotiation. Here again the ECHR reiterates that its Judgment pertains neither to the conflict resolution nor to its elements, including the right to return of refugees and internally displaced persons, which should find their solution within the only internationally mandated framework of the conflict resolution – the Co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group.
That the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process runs within the framework of the Minsk Group Co-chairs and has nothing to do with the mentioned Judgments of the ECHR has been once again confirmed on June 22nd in Strasbourg during the Summer Session of the PACE by Igor Crnadak, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Referring to the Chiragov and others vs. Armenia and Sargsyan vs. Azerbaiajn cases he said that the Committee of Ministers monitors the execution of the judgments. At the same time he stressed that the mediation for the settlement of the conflict is done by the OSCE Minsk Group, and the peaceful settlement was a joint commitment by Armenia and Azerbaijan upon accession to the Council of Europe.
However, even after the unequivocal statement of the Chairman of the Committee of the Ministers, Azerbaijan continues to boast that allegedly the Judgment of the Court pertains to the conflict resolution.
Question: What Azerbaijan strives to achieve by such policy?
Answer: The manipulation of the Judgment of the ECHR can harm the efforts of the Minsk Group Co-chairs aimed at the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. By this Azerbaijan again tries to shift the negotiation process of the conflict settlement to other formats, mislead the international community, and undermine the efforts of the Co-chair countries.
Based on its own arbitrary interpretation of the Judgment of the ECHR Azerbaijan already makes statements alleging that the withdrawal of the armed forces will ensure conditions conducive to the return of the refugees and that this issues should in no way be considered as a compromise. Therefore, Azerbaijan by its arbitrary and selective interpretations once again opposes the proposals contained in the five well-known statements of the leaders of the Co-chair countries. Baku forgets that the Co-chairs consider these elements as an integrated whole as any attempt to select some elements over others would make it impossible to achieve a balanced solution. This is another evidence that Azerbaijan is not ready for the conflict settlement based on the norms and principles of the international law and elements proposed by the heads of the Co-chair countries in their statements at L’Aquila, Muskoka, Deauville, Los Cabos and Enniskillen. This attitude of Azerbaijan does not allow reaching a comprehensive settlement, which would also solve the issues of the refugees and displaced persons.
In the absence of any grounds to justify its non-constructive approach opposing the Co-chairs Azerbaijan resorts to falsifications as the last available possibility under its disposal. The exploitation of the ECHR Judgment on the Chiragov case is just the last evidence of this attitude.