The ECHR’s ruling on Armenian and Azerbaijani IDPs must be enacted. The only challenge is the timely development of compensation mechanisms.

On June 30 the Institute for War and Peace Armenia Branch, in cooperation with the Public Journalism Club and its project Media Center, held a discussion on the consequences of the ECHR decision on Armenian and Azerbaijani IDPs. Larisa Alaverdyan, First Ombudsman of the RA, Director of the Institute of Politics and Law, and Vladimir Sargsyan, son of Manvel Sargsyan, shared thoughts on the possible impact the ruling may have on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Earlier on June 16, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued rulings for the Sargsyan v. the Azerbaijani Republic and Chiragov v. the Republic of Armenia cases. The Court obliged both governments to work out mechanisms to enable IDPs to restore their right to property and receive compensation. The court has given the parties 12 months to address all issues between themselves.

“I consider it a little unlikely that they will have the compensation in a year since it will take much more time. And it now matters least whether the sides will get the compensation simultaneously or at different times because the issue is at quite a different level now. The sides must first agree on the form of the compensation,” said Alaverdyan.

Alaverdyan added in spite of the so-long-awaited ruling, the ECHR decisions were construed totally differently in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

“Azerbaijan emphasizes the fact that Armenia is obliged to provide the compensation, and, thus, it has occupied the lands of Nagorno Karabakh. Excited with the ruling, the other side proposed to include in the ruling text that Armenia occupied the autonomous province of Nagorno Karabakh and other territories. The ECHR, however, did not include it and it cannot do such a thing,” Alaverdyan said.

The ECHR works only with recognized states and, consequently, the ruling is directed to Armenia, and it reads that we have a control over Nagorno Karabakh and have good relations with, which is true, Alaverdyan said.

Alaverdyan referred to the expert survey conducted in 1990s which fixes that Armenians in Azerbaijan left more property (estate and non estate assets) than Azerbaijanis in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

“In 1994-1996 I conducted a survey and found out Armenians abandoned in Azerbaijan one thousand flats more than Azerbaijanis in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The more supporting documents a side submits, the more convinced the ECHR gets. The state itself is to decide the form of the compensation: property compensation or a person’s return to the place he abandoned. Realizing how difficult and intricate the case is, the court has decided to give one year to Armenia and Azerbaijan for the two sides to develop mechanisms and enforce the compensation,” Alaverdyan said.

A national expert group must be formed which will study the causes which made IDPs change their living places and the amount of compensations. Finally, a joint international or Armenian-Azerbaijani group may be established.

The Sargsyan family, who, after being forced to flee from their village of Gulistan in the Shahumyan region in 1992 during the Karabakh War, have since been denied the right to have access to their property, home and the graves of their relatives. The applicants Chiragovs and Gebrayilovs filed a motion in 2005 in particular on the loss of their properties in Lachin, as well as various other possessions such as cars and livestock.

The ECHR satisfied the claims and issued this landmark ruling.

Vladmir Sargsyan recalled that his father Minas Sargsyan always dreamt about returning to Gulistan where their family had left all their property.

“He wished he would fight, that’s why he applied to the court. In the village we, as everyone else, had a house, livestock and a land to cultivate. I can hardly imagine how they are going to compensate but I’m happy to have won against Azerbaijan. I would like our people to be united to succeed, because in this case, supported by the state and our lawyers, we were all unified and now we see the result,” Sargsyan said.

There are more than 1,000 cases at the ECHR against Armenia and Azerbaijan, 600 and 400 lawsuits respectively, Alaverdyan said. “After this precedent decision the others do not have to apply to the ECHR. The courts at the national level may resolve the issues,” Alaverdyan said.

With respect to the talks on Nagorno Karabakh conflict, Alaverdyan said, “The ECHR’s role is so great that it does not focus on if the relations between the countries are tense or not, if there is a war or not. States have obligations and they must fulfill their obligations before civilians.”

Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

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