EDITORIAL: Azerbaijan Reacts to ECtHR Judgments

There are questions over the implementation of the recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in: Sargsyan v Azerbaijan (Application No. 40167/06), andChiragov and Others v Armenia (Application No. 13216/05).

The cases regarded the compensation for property lost during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The judgments, released in June, stated that:

“At the present stage, and pending a comprehensive peace agreement, it would appear particularly important to establish a property claims mechanism, which should be easily accessible and provide procedures operating with flexible evidentiary standards, allowing the applicant and others in his situation to have their property rights restored and to obtain compensation for the loss of their enjoyment.” (Chiragov, §199; Sargsyan, §238).

The Court found, among other things, that Azerbaijan and Armenia had breached the applicants’ right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states:

“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”

However these judgments have been received completely differently in Azerbaijan and Armenia. In an Interview with Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov, he stated that:

“Obviously, sense of impunity of Armenia encourages it to solidify its notorious track-record of falsifying and distorting the facts on the ground and the documents of international organisations.

Armenia even does not shy away from brazenly attempting to manipulate the judgment of such a prominent institution as ECHR in broad daylight.

What is worrisome is the dangerous attempts of Armenia to justify its internationally wrongful acts by farfetched reasons. This is unacceptable and may seriously undermine the international efforts to protect universally recognized human rights norms guaranteed by the Convention and may compromise the Convention’s role as a constitutional instrument of European public order.”

Azerbaijan has clearly used these judgments as a political tool to focus on Armenia ‘occupying’ allegedly Azerbaijani land. These statements are extremely ironic given Azerbaijan’s human rights track record.

In an Interview with Armenian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shavarsh Kocharyan: he responded saying

“I stopped [looking] for any logic in the behaviour of the Azerbaijani leadership, and my advice to you would be the same. It looks like a nightmare when the leadership of a country that every day consistently violates human rights makes continuous references to the judgment of the ECHR.”

He also went on to mention how the Azerbaijani propaganda machine ignored the comments of the ECtHR within the judgment on: the peaceful aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, their rejection by Azerbaijan and the abolishment of the autonomy of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, the referendum held in the Nagorno-Karabakh Rrepublic and its subsequent declaration of independence.

Importantly, in an Interview with Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian, he stated:

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.

As for the interpretations of Azerbaijan as if the ECHR judgment on the Chiragov v 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.

While examining the issues within the Court’s jurisdiction the Court notes in the 216thparagraph 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 paragraph 236 of the [Judgment] 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.”

As affirmed in the interview with the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Armenia would be prepared to engage with the proposals of the judgment regarding the property compensation mechanism as part of the peace negotiation process under the framework of the Co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group – the key negotiations framework.

The overwhelming conclusion is that it is undoubtedly important that the judicial aspect of the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiation process is not skewed as a political tool – as demonstrated by Azerbaijan. Such rhetoric is only detrimental to the peace negotiation process.

— Emin Moskofian

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