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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]07/23/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on July 22, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a verdict against Azerbaijan for unlawfully detaining an Armenian citizen and torturing him from the years 2009 until 2011. On the same day of the ECtHR ruling, Azerbaijan sentenced 13 Armenians to six years in prison. This sentence comes after the submission of many complaints to various international bodies that Azerbaijan is unlawfully detaining and abusing captured Armenians following the 44-Day War in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh) in the Fall of 2020.

Regarding the 2009 case, the ECtHR stated in its verdict, “On 9 May 2009 the applicant, allegedly a civilian with no military assignment, went with a group of friends to the village of Navur near the town of Berd, close to the border with Azerbaijan, to pick mushrooms in the forest…Allegedly, the mushrooms picked by the applicant were discovered about 5-6 kilometres from the Azerbaijani border, but nothing else was found… Following his arrest by the Azerbaijani forces, the applicant was held captive for 22 months in different military facilities… The Azerbaijani Government maintained that the applicant was captured as a member of the Armenian armed forces and, as military captives on both sides, should be considered as a prisoner of war.”

The court held that in 2009, Azerbaijan violated Article 3 and 5 of the Convention. As such, Azerbaijan was ordered to pay the 2009 victim non-pecuniary damages. The ECtHR also acknowledged in its ruling a similarity between the 2009 case and the ongoing issues related to the 2020 war.

Azerbaijan has captured and detained several Armenians following its Turkish-backed invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh. Detained Armenians, such as the 13 who were sentenced yesterday, are accused of illegally entering Azerbaijani territory and committing terrorism offenses. Some of those captured (but not all) were members of the military who were defending their homes and neighbors against the invading forces, which included at least 2,000 Syrian-backed mercenaries with ties to ISIS and other extremist groups.

Human Rights Watch released a report in March stating, “Azerbaijani forces abused Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment and torture either when they were captured, during their transfer, or while in custody at various detention facilities… The number of Armenian POWs still in custody remains unclear. By the end of February 2021, Armenia’s Representative Office at the European Court of Human Rights had asked the court to intervene with Azerbaijan regarding 240 cases of alleged prisoners of war and civilian detainees.”

The religious freedom implications of the ongoing situation are significant. The Armenians are an ethnic-Christian community who after the 1915 Turkish genocide against Christians, are today forced to exist wedged between two Turkic Islamic nations who seek a type of reunification. The 2020 war is considered by many Armenians as a continuation of the 1915 genocide.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, stated, “We are very worried about the status of those who remain imprisoned by Azerbaijan following the 2020 war. It is obvious that there is a long-established pattern of abuse and injustice toward prisoners. Armenian Christians do not fit within the Pan-Turkic/Islamic narrative used by Azerbaijan and Turkey to justify their actions. These ongoing human rights abuses are intended to intimidate Armenians into no longer existing within their indigenous homeland. Diversity is a sign of a healthy and prosperous society, but instead, it is punished by Azerbaijan which is enabled through the support of Turkey.”

Matias Perttula, ICC’s Advocacy Director, added, “ICC welcomes the ECtHR decision and hopes they continue applying the same precedent to the actions of Azerbaijan in the 2020 war. We will continue to engage relevant governments and international bodies to achieve justice for those Armenians still detained by the Azeri government.”

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]