Karabakh: ECHR issues rulings in conflicting cases filed by refugees

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on June 16 issued rulings for the Sargsyan v the Azerbaijani Republic and Chiragov v the Republic of Armenia cases.

Both cases are related to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, because of which thousands of Armenians and Azeris were forced to flee their homes, leaving their property behind. These rulings are the first legal decisions in such cases, however, it is obvious that they do not provide answers to many questions. The European Court, in deciding, was rather guided by the principle of “do no harm”.

According to the ECHR, “the rights of the Armenian refugee are violated due to lack of access to his property in Azerbaijan left during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.” Minas Sargsyan was a resident of the village of Gyulistan in the Shahumyan region, which is now under the control of Azerbaijan.

The Court held that there had been a violation of the right to protection of property, the right to respect for private and family life and the right to an effective remedy. A similar decision was made in the case of Chiragov v the Republic of Armenia. Chiragov was a resident of the Lachin region, which is now part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

It is noteworthy that the court has given the parties 12 months to address all issues between themselves. The Court did not oblige any compensation payment and did not make a decision that would be regarded as interference in the political process.

Chiragov filed his lawsuit in April 2006, in August of that same year, the ECHR received a claim from Sargsyan. However, for the first time the claims were considered only in 2010. And each time when they Court considered the cases, it was noted that the Court’s decisions cannot be binding until the conflict is resolved.

Does the ECHR hopes that the Karabakh conflict will be resolved during the next year? In this case, the issues of refugees and internally displaced persons will be solved in the context of the humanitarian component of the settlement. However, as experts say, the question of the mass return of refugees and the return of property is unlikely to be considered during the negotiations, as it can cause destructive processes. Besides, there is no accurate and consistent information about the number of refugees and IDPs and the amount of lost property.

Moreover, in the course of the Karabakh conflict a certain part of refugees could use a variety of projects for the exchange of property, removal of property, obtaining financial compensation. Many people who fled Armenia and Azerbaijan were granted refugee status and were able to take advantage of international privileges. At the same time, refugees living in Nagorno-Karabakh cannot obtain such a status.