Armenia’s representation at ECHR urges not to speculate on Armenian prisoners of war

The Mission of Armenia to the European Court of Human Rights disseminated a statement about Armenian prisoners of war subjected to unlawful criminal prosecution.

According to the information received in the framework of the interstate legal processes initiated by the Government of Armenia in the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter – ECHR) and collected from open public sources, the Azerbaijani authorities are currently conducting trumped-up criminal prosecutions in connection with the events of the September 27 war against the Armenian nationals held in captivity, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law.

The Government of Armenia has officially stated on numerous occasions and now reiterates its position that those currently illegally held in Azerbaijan are prisoners of war and abducted civilians and enjoy the right to freedom of expression as established by the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Any criminal proceedings brought against the Armenian captives lack any legal basis and openly contradict international legal norms.

Moreover, the entire process of criminal prosecution by the Azerbaijani authorities on the basis of far-fetched charges against Armenian prisoners of war and detained civilians is accompanied by gross violations of the guarantees of fundamental rights to a fair trial.

In particular, both individuals prosecuted under international human rights law and international humanitarian law should enjoy such minimal fair trial guarantees as the presumption of innocence, be informed promptly and thoroughly of the nature and basis of the charges in a language they understand, have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence, defend themselves in person or through legal assistance of their own choosing, enjoy free legal aid and access to legal counsel.

Taking into account the above mentioned, the office of Armenia’s representative at the ECtHR has repeatedly applied to the ECtHR with various demands to stop the criminal proceedings against the mentioned persons, to release them or to guarantee their rights in other ways. However, taking into account that within the legal mechanisms of the ECtHR the only urgent measure is the possibility to apply an interim measure under Article 39 of the Court, which, unfortunately, is very limited and is applied mostly in cases of irreversible threat to the right to life or the right to freedom from torture, the ECtHR refrains from intervening in criminal proceedings against the persons in question.

In view of the above, the Office of the RA Representative to the ECtHR is currently continuing professional discussions with the competent state authorities and other interested parties regarding the possibility of referring to possible effective tools in the context of other international legal mechanisms in order to obtain information about, intervene or prevent illegal criminal prosecutions against Armenian prisoners.

At the same time, bearing in mind that international legal processes are complex and multilayered and that the Azerbaijani authorities will attempt to use any convenient pretext to “legitimize” the trumped-up criminal proceedings initiated by them, the Armenian representative to the ECHR expresses its readiness to cooperate with the lawyers and lawyers concerned, the Bar Association or any other individuals and/or human rights organizations and urges them to discuss and consult with the Armenian lawyers and lawyers concerned before taking any action. At the same time, taking into account the over-emphasis and particular importance of the issue, we urge to refrain from excessive speculation and public discussion of the issue as much as possible.